In De Haro’s (Alejandro’s Story, 2013, etc.) thriller, Mexican drug lords lock horns with an American military hero, drug enforcement agencies, a Dutch hacker, and occasionally with one another.
Initially, this book’s plot seems driven by an investigation into smuggling methods responsible for a spike in cocaine shipments. Former black-ops specialist Dale Lipinski is well-qualified to look into it, as requested by California’s attorney general. The story’s focus gradually shifts, however, to bank-hacker Katla Oesterhalle, a Dutch national who’s sold to a Mexican drug lord after a private security firm destroys her European operation. He forces her to hack the financial transactions of a rival drug lord. Lipinski is one of several U.S. agents who join a Mexican raid to free Katla, who now has obvious value to the Drug Enforcement Administration. Although some Mexican officials apparently want to keep Katla in Mexico, Lipinski manages to spirit her into the United States, and Katla rapidly falls for him. Soon, there are multiple groups searching for Katla, who’s being held at an NSA facility against her will. Consequently, her life is placed in serious jeopardy when Lipinski strikes a bargain to release her into the custody of a British agency. The plot should be electric with tension at this point, but it’s less gripping than it should be, in part because the story is predictable; for example, several abductions include the promise of sexual torture. Also, it repeats specific adjectives, such as “ruthless” for bad guys and “high-grade” (a term which is never defined) for cocaine. Moreover, neither Lipinski nor Katla is a three-dimensional character, which is particularly disappointing in the case of Katla, who’s a ghostly imitation of uber-hacker Lisbeth Salander of Stieg Larsson’s bestseller The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. However, the depictions of savage drug lords and their sadistic plots could provide a satisfying fix for crime-fiction junkies with fond memories of the TV show Miami Vice. Epigraphs from literary giants such as Sophocles and Nathaniel Hawthorne, however, seem rather pretentious in view of the prosaic storytelling that follows them.
A heavily detailed but flawed crime thriller.