November 28, 2011
EL GAVILAN by Craig McDonald
It's no secret that I'm an unabashed admirer of author Craig McDonald's Hector Lassiter series. What he's done with his first standalone novel is something very different from his Lassiter series. EL GAVILAN is more mainstream contemporary fare than the Lassiter books, but no less intriguing. Where the Lassiter books are full of both overt and sly historical references, and pop-culture head games (ahem), EL GAVILAN requires the reader to fully engage with characters whose diverse opinions on controversial topics such as illegal immigration sometimes contradict their actions, and yet when examined in depth seem not to be contradictory at all, or not entirely. What this book has in common with the Lassiter series, aside from stellar writing and storytelling, is the author's finely drawn separation of what is legal, what is just, and what is right -- those three things are seldom one and the same -- and depicting the differences with all-too human characters, both admirable and despicable, as well as those who occupy the middle ground.
In this standalone, McDonald deftly handles the twin reins of pace and tension, moving the story toward a dynamic confrontation, yet creating circumstances that complicate any possible result of that confrontation. This is must reading for anyone who thinks the topic of illegal immigration begins and ends somewhere other than his own backyard. The author's small town setting is fictional, but there are recognizable places and incidents from my own city. And central Ohio isn't usually the first place people think of when the topic of illegal immigration arises.Without preaching or pandering to the extremists on either side of this divisive issue, McDonald makes the reader intimately aware of the causes and effects, and manages to tell a damn fine story at the same time.
Note: B&N and amazon both list this book with a release date of 12/18, but B&N is shipping already.