Jon Wilder’s lusterless third adventure pits the ornithological sleuth (The Audubon Quartet, 1998, etc.) against a variety of human vultures and borderline sociopaths working that other borderline separating Mexico from the US, the one that’s crossed every day by a steady parade of illegal immigrants. These unfortunates, vulnerable in the extreme, are routinely exploited, robbed, even killed by zealously brutal fast-buck operators. Among the latest victims are the sister of Wilder’s old friend Emilio Flores, her husband, and their two children. When Wilder volunteers to identify the criminals and bring them to justice, Emilio seems less than eager to accept his offer. Can Wilder finger the acorn woodpecker and the Montezuma quail? Of course. As for homicidal maniacs, though, Emilio seems sensibly skeptical. Soon enough, however, Wilder and an amenable female cop—nice legs, good bod—are chasing lowlifes and engaging in the usual flavorless fling. In due time, the pretty cop gets shot, forcing Wilder to go it alone when he feels the need to slip into Mexico garbed as a priest. The disguise is soon penetrated, and Wilder becomes a prisoner of the evil genius he’s been after. Handcuffed, tied to a tree, he waits helplessly while his exuberant nemesis preps him for an elaborate death, until—curses! foiled! It’s deus ex machina time, a flight of fancy that may well prove memorable for its feather-brained absurdity.
For the birds.