**The Extraditionist

confiscated drug money

Confiscated drug money (photo: wikimedia.org)

By Todd Merer – A debut thriller that shines a light into a particularly dark corner of the legal world, The Extraditionist is the story of a talented lawyer who’s made his comfortable living representing the leaders of drug cartels at risk of being extradited to the United States. IRL, author Merer is, cover copy would have you believe, a specialist in defending these same high-ranking cartel chiefs. “He gained acquittals in more than 150 trials,” it crows. This seems a dubious business and, as a result, you may have trouble warming up to the book’s protagonist, a first-person narrator who may be no more than the author’s alter-ego.

When three potentially lucrative clients send out feelers—“a trifecta of new clients suddenly emerg(ing) from the free-fire zone of the War against Drugs”—Bluestone whips into action. He knows next-to-nothing about any of these potential clients, except that they are all dangerous men supported by large trigger-happy criminal gangs. You may have trouble keeping all the players straight. I did.

Nevertheless, Bluestone is all in, hoping for the big score that will let him retire. There’s a possibility that one of the three is the elusive Sombra, a mysterious drug lord living high in the Andes among the Logui people who reportedly pays no bribes and extorts no officials. Bluestone is skeptical. “In my experience, tales of the moral principles of drug legendaries are bullshit. On the opposite end of the spectrum, stories of their violence are underestimated.” You wonder how he’s survived.

Throughout the story, Bluestone’s friends and confidants and fixers and what-have-you are murdered by one cartel or the other, yet Bluestone soldiers on, seemingly unaffected by the death and destruction that follows in this wake. Over the course of the narrative, he develops a theory about who Sombra is (one I did not share), and you may figure out rather quickly the true identify of a couple of key characters.

The huge amounts of cash sloshing around and the casual way in which they were handled, the wholesale murder, and the efforts to obtain for drug traffickers the lightest possible sentences exposed a moral vacuum at the heart of this novel that makes it difficult to care about the protagonist or his supposedly clever doings. It’s quite a contrast to the perspective on the destructive wake of the cartels (in Mexico this time) of Don Winslow’s excellent The Cartel.

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