Ohio is a long way from the Mexican border, but El Gavilan was inspired by real events in a rural area of that state. The novel tells the story of a sudden influx of illegal immigrants; a spike in violent crime; the appearance of street gangs; and stresses on schools, policing, and other services. McDonald uses three lenses for the story: different police chiefs who span an ethical continuum from respectful law enforcement to murderous thuggery. When a brutal rape-murder follows an apartment-building fire made lethal because of the language barrier between victims and firefighters, two of the cops face a flashpoint that might overwhelm everyone in the region. El Gavilan is a big and broad story, and McDonald effectively uses a just-the-facts-ma’am narrative, fleshing out primary characters via flashbacks. It’s also an evenhanded story that begins with desperate families making a dangerous journey to an uncertain future. Crime fans will find much to like, and readers unfamiliar with the complexities of the issue will be engaged and informed. --Thomas Gaughan
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"As sobering and as urgent as tomorrow's headlines, this searing novel traces the struggle of the residents of fictional New Austin, Ohio, to cope with out-of-control illegal Latino immigrants. McDonald deftly balances his 'now' against the 'then' backstory as he dissects one of America's most tormenting social problems."
--Publisher's Weekly, starred review