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ILLEGAL (Jimmy ("Royal") Payne Legal Thriller Book 1) and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more

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Illegal Hardcover – March 24, 2009

271 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

L.A. defense attorney Jimmy Payne, overwhelmed by guilt and grief at his son’s death, also loses his wife, Sharon, to divorce, and morphs into “Royal” Payne to both cops and judges. It’s just a matter of time before he’s in deep trouble with both. Along with the trouble comes 12-year-old Agustino Perez, an illegal alien who is searching for his mother. Initially, Tino robs Payne, but Payne admires the boy’s toughness and determination and promises to help him find his mother. The trail takes them—dodging cops and assorted bad guys—from L.A. to Mexico and then back into the U.S. to confront a willful agri-tycoon who uses illegal aliens the way most people use Kleenex. Illegal is a riveting read, filled with action, pathos, and even humor. The portrait of the dangers and predations that Latinos face crossing the border is chilling and rings with authenticity. But the book’s best quality is the way Levine invests his characters with believable humanity. A compulsively readable yet character-driven thriller. --Thomas Gaughan


Riveting ... filled with action, pathos, and even humor. ... The book’s best quality is the way Levine invests his characters with believable humanity.”—Booklist

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; 1st Ed. edition (March 24, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553806734
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553806731
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (271 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,799,181 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

PAUL LEVINE is best known for two series of legal thrillers: "Jake Lassiter" and "Solomon vs. Lord." His newest novel, the national bestseller "Bum Rap," brings together the protagonists of both series in an explosive murder case set on glitzy South Beach.

"The pages fly by and the laughs keep coming in this irresistible South Florida crime romp. A delicious mix of thriller and comic crime caper." - Booklist (starred review)

BULLETIN: On June 8, 2015, "Bum Rap" became the Number One bestseller in the Amazon Kindle Store. It was also the Number One bestseller in "legal thrillers" and "mysteries." On the same day, "To Speak for the Dead" was Number One in "heist thrillers" and "Night Vision" Number One in "international crime thrillers."

Levine's first novel, "To Speak for the Dead," introduced the world to Jake Lassiter, an NFL linebacker turned hard-nosed lawyer. Lassiter has been described by The Miami Herald as "having more charisma than Perry Mason ever did" and by Booklist as "one of the most entertaining series characters in contemporary crime fiction."

In "Bum Rap," Lassiter has had it with sleazy clients, shifty prosecutors, and a legal system out of whack. He's about to hang up his shingle when Victoria Lord calls. Solomon has been arrested for murder. What's worse: the only person who can clear him has disappeared. Now it's up to Lassiter and Lord to track down the witness--a stunning Bar girl--before she's roped in by the feds...or eliminated by the Russian mob.

Levine's other series features squabbling lawyers - and lovers - Steve Solomon and Victoria Lord, who duel in and out of court. The Chicago Sun-Times praised "Solomon vs. Lord" as: "Remarkably fresh and original with characters you can't help loving and sparkling dialogue that echoes the Hepburn-Tracy screwball comedies. A hilarious, touching and entertaining twist on the legal thriller."

Levine has won the John D. MacDonald fiction award and has been nominated for an Edgar Allan Poe Award, the Macavity, the International Thriller Writers Award, the Shamus Award, and the James Thurber Humor Prize. A graduate of Penn State and the University of Miami School of Law, he was a trial lawyer before becoming a full-time novelist.

Ten of Levine's novels have hit Number One bestseller status on Amazon in their genres:

LEGAL THRILLERS: "To Speak for the Dead," "Solomon vs. Lord," "Fool Me Twice," "Illegal," and "Bum Rap."

MYSTERIES: "State vs. Lassiter," "The Deep Blue Alibi," and "Mortal Sin."



In June 2015, Levine was the Number One bestselling author on Amazon Kindle.

Here's a list of the "Jake Lassiter" books in order of publication:

To Speak for the Dead
Night Vision
False Dawn
Mortal Sin
Fool Me Twice
Flesh & Bones
Last Chance Lassiter
State vs. Lassiter
Bum Rap

The "Solomon vs. Lord" series:

Solomon vs. Lord
The Deep Blue Alibi
Kill All the Lawyers
Habeas Porpoise

Stand-Alone Thrillers


OTHER ENDEAVORS: Paul wrote 21 episodes of the TV series "JAG" and co-created the Supreme Court drama "First Monday," both on CBS.

More info at
Follow Paul @Jake_Lassiter
Visit Paul's brand-new Facebook Author Page for the latest news:

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

59 of 61 people found the following review helpful By H. Grove (errantdreams) TOP 1000 REVIEWER on April 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Some of the characters start off feeling a bit flat, particularly the expectably spunky and tough-talking Tino, but thankfully they grow into their roles, around much the same time that I started finding the book more dark than depressing. I never really could figure out why on earth Sharon was with her current fiancee, however; Levine never succeeds in making him seem charming enough to counterbalance his total jackassery.

The details of the human trafficking in illegals are fascinating, and definitely bring the book alive. We get to see plenty of sides to the issue under many different circumstances. The author never tries to reduce the issue to some platitude or provide a magical solution. Instead, he allows it to simply act as an incredible backdrop for his story.

Make no mistake--whether you agree that this book is depressing or not, it's definitely dark. There are themes and often scenes of murder, abuse, sexual abuse, rape, attempted rape, attempted pedophilia, and more. Illegal isn't for everyone.

My only other reservation is that some of the details at the end wrap up entirely too neatly. I don't want to give the events away; I'll merely say that there are things that hang over Jimmy's head for most of the novel as dire threats that are swept under the rug with barely an explanation when the time comes to wrap things up, and it broke the ability to suspend disbelief for me.

This is definitely a fascinating thriller, and if you're looking for a peek into the dark world of illegal immigrants and human trafficking then definitely give it a shot. But it does have a few flaws.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on June 9, 2010
Format: Hardcover
ILLEGAL is not a Solomon vs. Lord novel. Paul Levine, creator of the unique attorney duo who fought for justice with almost as much passion as they fought each other (and often hilariously so), has created a new mythos, one closer to his Jake Lassiter series than to Steve Solomon and Victoria Lord. His new protagonist is attorney Jimmy "Royal" Payne. While his previous creations made South Florida their home base, Payne is headquartered across the country from them in Los Angeles. The change of locale is accompanied by a darker tone, which is not to say that ILLEGAL finds Levine's well of humor to be dry. Payne uses humor more as a weapon than as a conversational instrument, unlike the characters who populate the author's earlier works. And with good reason.

We come to find out that Payne has experienced a devastating personal tragedy, one that has cost him his family and apparently his judgment. As the book begins, Payne is recruited --- "coerced" may be a better word --- into entrapping a judge in a bribery scheme. He is successful, but, as with many things with which Payne is involved, it backfires badly on him, more so when he is accused of diverting some of the bribery money for himself. The accusation is career-threatening, all the more so because it's true. On the run from the police, Payne crosses paths with a 12-year-old Mexican runaway who is in even more trouble than he is.

Tino Perez and his mother, Marisol, have been forced to flee their native Mexico and use a notorious coyote to negotiate the illegal crossing into the United States. Mother and son become separated along the way, with the result being that Tino suddenly finds himself penniless on the streets of Los Angeles without papers or guidance.
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful By L. French on June 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover
If you are looking for a gift for the man in your life, try "Illegal", the intelligent fast-paced action-packed hard boiled novel by Paul Levine.
The story is about Jimmy (Royal) Payne, an ethically-challenged lawyer who finds himself caught in the world of human trafficking. The story takes place in Southern California and Mexico (local setting), brings up the issues of immigration (intellectual), contains great testosterone-packed fights, laugh-out-loud moments (quotable ones) , and sex scenes. (sensitive souls beware: a few graphic scenes and foul language. A great read!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By TimG on May 29, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The good:
This was a fast paced thriller with characters that have a lot of emotional baggage. The main character, J. Atticus "Jimmy" Payne is a lawyer whose marriage has fallen apart following a tragic accident. He gets trapped by a bad cop into bribing a crooked judge which leads to his career falling apart as well. Then finds himself facing multiple felony charges. In the past he has helped the survivors of a truckload of immigrants who were left to die of heat exhaustion. Because of this, he is sought out by Tino, a twelve year old boy who has become separated from his mother in their clandestine border crossing. The issue of illegal immigration provides the backdrop for this thriller with murder, rape, slavery, prostitution and attempted pedophilia as some of the abuses facing undocumented workers. The book is an exciting thriller and hard to put down.

The bad:
The dialog in Spanish is terrible. It looks like he used a web based translator program or just asked someone who really didn't speak Spanish well. It is like if a foreigner who speaks English poorly tries to integrate swearing into his speech, but nearly always does it wrong. It is just embarrassing. Probably the worst is that every night, Tino says "Buenos Noches" (rather than "Buenas")to "Himmy" (rather than "Jimmy" or even "Yimmy" which might sound believable).

Jimmy starts with $5,000 in cash and due to his outstanding warrants cannot use credit cards or cash machines. He quickly uses all but a couple hundred dollars on fake documents and bribes but still manages to pay for hotels, meals, gas, baseball gloves and balls, shoes, a chainsaw and he gives $350 to a father to get help for his sick daughter.
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