A San Diego prosecutor puts together a case against top leaders of a new but menacing drug cartel in Dutton’s debut legal thriller.
When Montana firefighter Drury Betts spies off-road vehicles at night near the Canadian border, he suspects something diabolical. Surveilling the off-roaders, he and retired-detective chum Zack Reynolds believe the men are part of a drug-smuggling operation. As one of those shady individuals is a San Diego accountant, Drury and Zack call attorney Nick Drummond, who heads the Money Laundering Task Force in the same city. Nick’s team quickly links the activity at the border to the Baja Norte Familia, a cartel new on the scene but ambitiously pushing marijuana and black tar heroin. Nick secures a witness—Felicia, ex-girlfriend to a cartel lieutenant—who threatens the Familia’s future. Baddies stage an assault to ensure she not make it to the stand, a violent act that puts one of Nick’s agents in the line of fire. This just adds to the charges against the crime ring’s leaders whom Nick plans to put away. But simply arresting these men is dangerous, and it doesn’t necessarily stop them from sending hired guns after witnesses or Nick’s loved ones. Though only the final act sees the inside of a courtroom, Nick’s persistently in lawyer mode. He builds his legal case during the investigation, which he’ll refine by pretrial. This necessitates copious conversations among characters on proper legal tactics, making dialogue the bulk of the narrative. There are, however, quite a few witty moments; Nick’s agents serving a subpoena to a witness deep in the wilderness has unexpected threats (e.g., wildlife). And Nick’s relationship hurdles give him dimension.
A hero who audaciously takes on bad guys, whether in court or out in the field.