Crime Fiction with Issues: El Gavilan
Posted by: Kaite Stover
Book groups like mystery novels and they like books that provide many topics for discussion. For book group facilitators who make great efforts to find crime fiction that fits the bill, have a look at El Gavilan by Craig McDonald.
McDonald has been gaining popularity for his Hector Lassiter books, crime fiction with literary and historic elements. His first standalone, El Gavilan, belongs in a class that includes Dennis Lehane and George Pelecanos.
Former border patrol agent Tell Lyon is starting over in a small Ohio town. He tragically lost his family in a fire set by a drug lord. As the police chief of a town that straddles two counties, Tell finds himself being manipulated by two sheriffs with differing views of crime and criminals.
But the issue at the heart of the book is the American Dream—who gets to pursue it, who decides, and what is it exactly? This is a theme readers can really sink their teeth into in addition to discussing the clues McDonald drops about the murder.
Expect readers to say there seems to be too many plot threads and for some characters not enough development. The story is complex and McDonald is trying to get readers to consider the issues of illegal immigration as the plot unfolds and character traits are revealed, not through paragraphs of preachy exposition. All of the plot elements come together at the end of the book and the most intriguing characters are the ones readers will hope make a second appearance in another book.