TRIPLE CROSSING by Sebastion Rotella

Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Publication date: Aug 10th, 2011

This is Rotella’s first novel and I’m pleased I finally read it. Yes, I did a dance with it at the library. I actually got it out like three times and each time would only get 50 pages in. I’d start thinking to myself, “This is good.” Then life stuff would happen and the book would get returned unfinished. I could tell from the little tastes I was having that if I could commit to reading it, I would be rewarded. I hit up my comrade/consigliere Jeremy Lynch and sure enough a copy was quickly in my mail box. Side note, if you want something done by me, send it to Jeremy first; I’m more likely to listen to him.

Rotella has an impressive resume for a first time novelist. He has spent over 20 years as an investigative journalist, mostly for the Los Angeles Times. On his beat he covered terrorism, organized crime, immigration and homeland security, mainly from Mexico along the border and in South America. I’ve heard over the years the adage, “write what you know.” That is sound advice and Rotella stuck to it.

The “triple crossing” the title refers to is an area in South America where Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina meet and has become a crossroads for international crime, terrorism, and smuggling. After reading the book, I believe it could also refer to many of the characters and their motivations in the story.

Valentine Pescatore is a rookie border patrol agent working the area around San Diego and Tijuana known as “the line.” Valentine is young and reckless. His superiors have an eye on him due to the company he keeps. He likes to hang with a group of patrolmen with a reputation for questionable methods. Indictments are rumored to be coming down and Pescatore is smart enough to know something is about to happen. One night on the line, Valentine breaks the number 1 rule: He chases a suspect back over the border. I loved this particular sequence. If filmed correctly, would make a great action sequence for a film. This brings him onto the playing field of a seductive female federal agent who sees him being the perfect candidate to go undercover in a Mexican mafia/cartel family. Before you know it, everything goes wrong. Is Valentine in way over his head or has he gone rogue?

This is a solid effort for a 1st timer. The level of detail concerning the Mexican-American border could only have come from somebody who spent much time immersed in it. I also never knew anything about the triple crossing area of South America the book describes, which in my head is a vision of hell. I found this to be the most memorable aspect of the book for me. Most of the characters I found myself liking while I found two in particular totally clichéd. I won’t tell you who, either. The first half of the book was solid. The second was scattered to me. Rotella will improve with time. I am certain of it. While reading Triple Crossing, I was constantly reminded of the Don Winslow novel The Power Of The Dog. They both cover some of the same ground but veer off from each other at a certain point. I won’t tell you to rush out and read Triple Crossing but I also won’t tell you to skip over it should it cross your path. Rotella will become a force to be reckoned with, just give him time.

Dave Wahlman