Valentine Pescatore, a private investigator working under contract to Homeland Security, teams with sometime cop, sometime crusading journalist Leo Méndez to penetrate the conspiracy surrounding the killing of 10 African women in a Mexican motel.
The Chicago-born Pescatore, who became a PI in Argentina after messing up as a U.S. Border Patrol agent, has recently relocated from Buenos Aires to Washington, D.C., to work again for Isabel Puente, his former boss and one-time lover. Under government protection, Méndez has moved to San Diego with his wife and children to escape the Mexican Mafia and its "rip crews"—roving robbers and killers. At the heart of the motel murders is an illicit scheme involving an American financial outfit with ties to Mexico that is being investigated for money laundering. After an Eritrean cleaning woman is sexually assaulted by one of the company's partners and escapes to Mexico with an incriminating flash drive from her attacker's computer, her life is in danger. Ultimately, wherever they go to connect the dots of the case—Mexico, southern California, Guatemala, Italy—Pescatore and Méndez are under threat as well. (Different troubles await Pescatore in Paris, where a breakup with his counterterrorism-agent girlfriend, Fatima, seems likely.) This latest installment in a series including Triple Crossing (2011) and The Convert's Song (2014) is about as tightly woven and rock-solid as international thrillers get. Rotella is as good at setting up action scenes as he is at springing them (which is saying something: the shootouts are terrific). The crisp dialogue feeds the sculpted plot and vice versa. There is nary a wasted moment in the book or one in which Rotella isn't in complete command. The entertaining combo of Pescatore and Méndez is icing on the cake.
Rotella's latest is a tense, gritty thriller—perfectly seedy when it needs to be and near-perfect in its overall execution.