Author: Al Billings
Publisher: AuthorHouse (2009)
Binding: Paperback, 364 pages
SOME SAY MEXICO IS MORE DANGEROUS THAN IRAQ.
Your 17-year-old granddaughter and her friends are kidnapped in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. The U.S. authorities say they can do nothing about it. Where do you go? Who do you turn to?
Nuevo Laredo exists today as a security nightmare, home to heartbreaking drug violence and lost lives. "Silver or Lead" is the new code in Mexico: Pay up or die.
In order to help his friend, Jerrod Hurst is drawn into the fight of his life. Out of desperation, the hardened veteran drafts his wartime brothers to execute his plan. After a daring, knife-edge rescue, the girls are successfully spirited out of Nuevo Laredo and across the U.S. border, a trail of blood and bodies littering the path. They must not only rescue the teens, but also minimize their own profiles. The mission is unauthorized by any government, and one mistake could result in prison, or death.
As the rescue unfolds, Jerrod uncovers a sinister terrorist plot. Beaten and almost killed, he is unwillingly pulled further into the nightmare, when he discovers that government agents have been playing both sides, reaping substantial profit from the drug trade they supposedly battle. Will he be able to expose the corrupt agents before it is too late?
Mexico is embroiled in a narco-insurgency characterized by assassinations and kidnapping. Politicians, law enforcement, and common citizens are often faced with the choice of accepting bribes or being killed, referred to in the vernacular as "plato or plomo," "silver or lead." It is clear that Al Billings thoroughly researched the Mexican conflict before using it as the backdrop for his novel, Sheepdogs. His attention to detail ensures the whole premise is authentic, allowing the reader to focus on the characters and their mission.
Sheepdogs opens with the kidnapping of a group of young Americans by the Mara Salvatrucha, a gang that operates in the U.S., Mexico, and Central America. Then the reader is introduced to the book's protagonist, Jerrod Hurst, a former Navy helicopter gun ship pilot and Vietnam veteran. One of the kidnapped victims is the granddaughter of one of Hurst's former shipmates. After the sailors realize that neither Mexican nor American law enforcement is searching for the missing granddaughter and her friends, they take matters into their own hands. During their foray over the border, the team finds there is more to the Maras and their activities than just narco-trafficking.
Sheepdogs is a fast-paced read. Al Billings strikes the right balance between authentic description of the characters, their military skills, and equipment, and keeping the reader enthralled in the narrative. Sheepdogs is recommended for fans of military and action-themed novels.
Reviewed by: Stephen Phillips (2010)