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Starred Review from Publishers Weekly: "Urgent as tomorrow's headlines...Searing."

Selected for numerous Year's Best lists!

Read more praise here.

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The news is full of it: escalating tensions from illegal immigration, headless bodies hanging off bridges and bounties placed on lawmen on both sides of the border.

New Austin, Ohio is a town grappling with waves of undocumented workers exerting pressure on schools, police and city services. In the midst of the turmoil, three very different kinds of cops scramble to maintain control and impose order.

Police Chief Tell Lyon is a hurting man, a former California Border Patrol commander whose family was brutally murdered by a vengeful gang of smugglers. Tell has fled the desert and returned to the heartland to be New Austin's chief of police. He's come expecting a Mayberry-like experience, but soon learns "the border is now everywhere."

Conservative hard-liner Sheriff Able Hawk takes a direct approach. Hawk stages mass arrests, posts inflammatory blog entries and bills back the Federal government his costs for jailing illegal immigrants who have nicknamed him El Gavilan.

Walt Pierce is sheriff of neighboring Vale County. Walt has a storied history and long rivalry with Able Hawk. Pierce, a vindictive, closed-minded man and a dangerous enemy, takes an immediate dislike to Tell Lyon.

The rape-murder of a Mexican-American woman triggers a brutal chain of events that threatens to leave no survivors.

El Gavilan is a novel of shifting alliances and whiplash switchbacks. Families are divided and careers and lives threatened. Friendships and ideals are tested and budding love affairs challenged.

With its topical themes, shades-of-gray characters and dark canvas, El Gavilan is a novel for our charged times.

Read an excerpt here

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Tyrus Books hardcover, December 2011: ISBN-13: 978-1440531941
ISBN-10: 1440531943
Tyrus Books paperback, December 2011: ISBN-13: 978-1440531910
ISBN-10: 1440531919

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"As sobering and as urgent as tomorrow's headlines, this searing novel by Edgar®-finalist McDonald (Head Games) traces the struggle of the residents of fictional New Austin, Ohio, to cope with out-of-control illegal Latino immigrants. The town's principled new police chief, Tell Lyon, a former Border Patrol sector chief whose wife and child recently died in a firebombing in the California borderlands, must contend with the brutal rape-murder of Thalia Ruiz, a young waitress and legal immigrant befriended by Horton County sheriff Able Hawk. Opposing Lyon and Hawk (gavilan in Spanish) are all-too-credible villains: Latino gangbangers, an unscrupulous journalist, and several crooked cops. Meanwhile, irresistible Patricia Maldonado, whose parents are "two of Horton County's rare documented, naturalized Latinos," provides Lyon steamy reasons to stay alive in this simmering cauldron of racial tensions and sadistic crimes. McDonald deftly balances his 'now' against the 'then' backstory as he dissects one of America's most tormenting social problems."

"McDonald offers another gritty, violent mystery in this exploration of both sides of a divisive problem."

"An addictive read."

"Folks are gonna talk about this one, dear reader... It's a social novel that doesn't beat you over the head with its themes and a thriller that doesn't cheat or go too 'big.' It's tender one moment and savage the next. The storytelling is organic and clean yet you can never guess where the novel will take you next. El Gavilan is big, bold socially relevant stuff delivered painlessly through tight prose and unflagging tension. In other words, it's everything you'd hope to get from a modern day master stretching his impressive-as-all-hell wings."
   —SPINETINGLER (read the full review)

"A fascinating thriller... What this book has in common with the Lassiter series, aside from stellar writing and storytelling, is the author's finely drawn separation of what is legal, what is just, and what is right—those three things are seldom one and the same—and depicting the differences with all-too human characters, both admirable and despicable, as well as those who occupy the middle ground... Highly recommended."
   —THE DROWNING MACHINE (read the full review)

"A thoroughly gripping crime story...(Tell) Lyon is thankfully anything but a cliched cop... Lyon's ability to hold on to his humanity as he moves from one tragedy into the next makes for a refreshing and fascinating character... Even more impressive is the portrayal of the imposing Hawk. El Gavilan is a dark and difficult journey at times, but it never loses sight of its characters' complexities."
   —MYSTERY SCENE (read the full review)

"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."

"This is a truly in-depth tale regarding murder, mayhem, and a very 'real' look into the tension and stress that's currently affecting the nation regarding the subject of immigration. This author does a stunning job of presenting the delicate balance that is in effect in our world right now. From the subject of immigration, to gangs taking over and threatening communities, to the delicate and long-term subject of racism, this author delves deeply into subjects that are slowly turning citizens of the United States against one another."

"With his latest, El Gavilan, Craig McDonald takes the border into New Austin, Ohio where a recent flood of immigration has rocked the status quo and three very different lawmen set about policing the population three very different ways. On a good day they're uneasy allies, but municipal chiefs Tell Lyon and Walt Pierce and county sheriff Able Hawk will subvert, out-maneuver and finally come into mortal combat with each other over the investigation of a brutal crime. When the body of a Mexican-American woman is discovered raped, murdered and dumped at the nexus of municipal lines, the race is on to claim jurisdiction over the potential landmine of a case. McDonald manipulates the plot—forward action balanced with flashback histories of the major players—to maximize the impact of every event... A major step forward for his already formidable breadth and range."
   —JEDIDIAH AYRES, BARNES & NOBLE BOOK CLUB (More from Mr. Ayres on El Gavilan here)

"This might be 2011's most relevant crime novel. The battle over immigration rages through a small Ohio city. I don't know of any other writer who has tackled the issue in such a clear-eyed, compelling manner."

"The fictional Horton County, Ohio, the setting of Craig McDonald's topical new novel El Gavilan, could be many Ohio counties: largely rural, scattered with small towns, and troubled lately by illegal immigrants, causing a strain on law enforcement, education, health and other services..."
   —AKRON BEACON JOURNAL (read the full review)

"Craig consistently writes great fiction and with El Gavilan he stretched his wings a bit. I love that this book shows both his versatility as a writer and his traditional strengths as well. I love that he drew me in with characters I couldn't decide if I loved or hated."

"This novel represents my introduction to Craig McDonald's work. Although his Hector Lassiter series comes highly recommended I haven't read any of those yet and sometimes a standalone book provides an easier point of entry... An awesome novel that starkly illustrates the difference between justice and the law with a powerhouse conclusion. I loved it."
   —THE MYSTERY BOOKSHELF (read the full review)

"Craig McDonald's timely and alarming novel explores issues raised by illegal immigration, animosity and physical violence not the least of it. When undocumented immigrants flood into an Ohio town, straining its resources, tensions escalate, placing additional demands on the police force. For a stark vision of a worst-case consequence of illegal immigration, read this one—if you dare."

"It's difficult to find a good book that explores the tensions in the nation's heartland fueled by both legal and illegal immigration, but I think Craig McDonald has aced it in El Gavilan..."
   —THE HUNTINGTON NEWS (read the full review)

"In an intriguing crime novel exploring explosive racial tensions among whites, naturalized Mexican-Americans, and illegal immigrants, author Craig McDonald delves into the darkness within as his characters slide down the slippery slope of situational ethics... McDonald explores values, attitudes, emotion, ethics, relationships, and the nature of intolerance in a satisfying, thought-provoking novel. Well-developed characters with unsteady moral compasses populate the pages of El Gavilan, giving the reader much to consider and reconsider."
   —TECHNORATI (read the full review)

"Craig McDonald takes a break from his Hector Lassiter thrillers with a story that addresses the timely issue of illegal immigration into the United States... McDonald smudges the lines between right and wrong, leaving readers with potentially conflicting feelings about the characters. It's this conflict that makes El Gavilan so irresistible: love or hate the characters, you can't help but invest in them... El Gavilan proves that Craig McDonald is as capable working in the contemporary thriller as he is with historicals."

"Craig McDonald uses his skills to write a drama that demands the reader pay attention: if a character has a Latino or Anglo name, the reader can't make assumptions about where the character's sympathies lie. His descriptions of the town and the characters are that vivid... If Mr. McDonald has done his job, the reader closes the book with more questions [than] when they started."
   —NEW YORK JOURNAL OF BOOKS (read the full review)

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El Gavilan at My Book, the Movie.

El Gavilan: The Page 69 Test.

Writer's Read: Craig shares thoughts about recent reads.

J. Kingston Pierce interviews Craig at Kirkus Reviews & The Rap Sheet.

Guest blog at Spinetingler regarding El Gavilan/Hector Lassiter secret connections.

"The Devil's Highway to the Buckeye State," an essay at Jen's Book Thoughts