This pedal-to-the-metal thriller wraps
a gripping story around a current topic. Levine knows how to turn a phrase, especially with the colorful characters he's created. With all the twists, it would be easy to think things are out of control. But by the end, the reader sees that it was all controlled chaos and Levine had us at the opening with "Judge Rollins drew a handgun from beneath his black robes and pointed the snub-nose barrel at Jimmy Payne's chest ... "
At his lowest point personally and professionally, attorney Jimmy "Royal" Payne decides he needs to change. But with the police after him, he'll have to do it on the run. When he stops by his office, he finds Tino Perez, a young boy just arrived from Mexico with no money and no papers.
Tino asks for help so he can find his mother, and Jimmy can't help admiring the gutsy kid. Seeing an opportunity to quit wallowing in his troubles, Jimmy helps Tino retrace the boy's trip from Mexico to California -- having no idea what he's getting into and what they'll encounter. (BANTAM, Mar., 384 pp., $22.00)