★★★★★ Nicolás Nolano is a young literature professor in Veracruz, Mexico, who likes to keep to himself. However, his quiet life is turned upside down when the Segundo Cortez cartel brutally murders his brother Esteban, his adopted mother Lucinda, and the community priest Padre Manolo because of their public resistance of the cartel. In retaliation, Nicolás makes a deadly strike against the cartel before fleeing to America as he knows the cartel will come for him next. The storyline switches back and forth from Nicolás’ new life in the U.S. to the movements of Pantano, a corrupt police chief who works closely with the cartel. Ultimately, Nicolás must decide whether to return to his cartel-controlled hometown to seek full justice for his slain loved ones or to stay where he is, in a place that is beginning to feel like home.
The Second Cortez by Chadwick Wall is both well written and well developed. The intriguing characters and plot make this book an immediate page turner. This is also a timely book as the main character has no choice but to illegally enter the United States to avoid being murdered at the hands of the cartel. Wall details the risky and terrifying trek that Nicolás traverses to freedom. Once Nicolás arrives, he is not met with open arms. Instead, he must keep his head down at all times to avoid being deported. Once a respected college professor, Nicolás becomes a day laborer picking up grueling work at construction sites. Beyond being an entertaining read, the main character’s ordeal shines light on the unfathomable hardships that illegal immigrants face.