"There they parted, both aware of the invisible boundary between their two countries, an unseen cultural wall that perhaps, in the end, they both realized could destroy their budding relationship."

In May 2009, Jack Leavitt, a young cowboy, is on a routine patrol along the Rio Grande when he encounters a Mexican teen, Ramon, struggling to herd his cattle away from the US border. Jack is employed by the Texas Animal Health Commission as a tick rider (a little known and specialized role in the prevention of tick-infested livestock crossing into the United States). He instinctively crosses into Mexico with his trusted horse, Tom, to help Ramon without any thought of the repercussions or peril. Together, they herd Ramon’s cattle back to the ranch where the Ortez family lives, and Jack meets the beautiful Gabriella Ortez. Her beauty incites a passion in Jack, and a courtship and romance develop between them during the course of the novel. But their relationship is not without barriers and concerns expressed from each of their respective families. Gabriella’s family cautions her about moving too fast with the Americano, while Jack’s father, James, who works for the Drug Enforcement Agency, fears for his son’s safety with the increasing cartel activity along the borders.

These fears involving his son’s relationship with Gabriella are not unwarranted as members of the Sinaloa cartel—Ismael “El Toro” Locano and his nephew, Jose Longoria—deal with the aftermath of violence against their family. Their boss, El Chapo, urges them to deal with their situation as he makes grand plans to move drugs across the borders and away from Juarez, a location not unknown for its extreme cartel violence.

Other supporting characters in the novel are Alejandro Martin, a pilot who feels increasingly trapped in the risky position of transporting cocaine into Mexico for his boss, the violent Salvador Silva. Also, two idealistic Mexican teens, Miguel Pena and Guillermo Herrera, escape the hardships of their lives and trek toward America with dreams of better futures. But they are rapidly caught up with perilous work and men and quickly find themselves entangled in the treacherous drug world. Soon, everyone in Street’s novel collides as the cartel’s wars encroach upon and disrupt the lives of the Ortez family and their peaceful, ranch homestead.

Set against the backdrop of Texas and Mexico, Street crafts a modern-day western and cowboy drama that touches on relevant themes of US and Mexican relations, the drug war, and immigration. On various levels, his extensive novel is akin to something of a Larry McMurtry book mixed with elements of Elmore Leonard and Cormac McCarthy’s The Border Trilogy. Street observes aspects of this same world other writers have touched upon—the picaresque adventures of life on the range, violence of the American West, tragic love affairs, and the bravery of cowboys.

The author approaches his cowboy hero, Jack, with respect to the once revered romanticism of the cowboy hero featured in classic westerns for decades. Jack is a blend of one of John Wayne’s characters with that of the young John Grady Cole in McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses. Jack is the truest of heroes: an honest and good-natured man out there on the plains who is deeply devoted to his horse, the woman he loves, and to his life as a protector. Street wisely explores Jack through the little known and unique profession of tick riders, adding a new perspective to the cowboy persona.

The narrative radiates most with Street’s vivid details of the cartel world and its characters. One example is the introduction of Armando Cervantes, whose “black eyes exuded a murderous combination of confidence, strength, and determination.” Perhaps the best parts of Street’s novel are in the moments he deals with the rapacious greed and barbarity of his cartel members. Parallel with this is Jack’s growth and maturity into a man as he crosses and recrosses the river, a familiar theme of the western novel and symbolic of Jack’s development.

Street is adept with detail, and it’s clear he savors the time spent with each of his characters, coloring the southwestern landscape, drawing his reader into an almost mythic world of cowboys and villains. He is careful to steer away from burdening his novel with gratuitous bloodshed, leaving just enough for the reader to understand and imagine. The pace of the book is slower since the author is willing to spend a great deal more time with his characters. This works both in his favor and against him since at times it seems as if the novel is unsure which genre it is partial to—the western or the thriller. And in Street’s novel, the components of each are not necessarily stronger than the other. Despite this, the author’s tale is a good read and should appeal to lovers of westerns and thrillers.

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