At twenty-four, Hailey Cain is world-weary, a West Point dropout with something to prove and a secret that is not revealed until the final pages of a thriller that takes her from LA to San Francisco to Chihuahua, Mexico, and Truckee in the High Sierras in a violent contretemps with LA mobsters and gang bangers, flying beneath the radar of law enforcement. A top-earning bike messenger in San Francisco, Hailey agrees to escort a young Latina girl to a remote village in Mexico as a favor to a woman she values as a sister, Serena "Warchild" Delgadillo. Unfortunately, Cain's life has already been compromised by a singular piece of bad luck that has sent her scurrying from LA to San Francisco to avoid retaliation. The favor for Serena involves a return to LA and an inevitable confrontation with an old nemesis.
What should be an easy job ends with Cain shot and left for dead, her passenger, Nidia, now in the hands of a mobster. Nidia is pregnant with the mobster's grandchild, the last of his line since the death of his son. While Serena craves revenge, Hailey operates out of a sense of justice and the thwarted dreams of graduation from West Point. Hailey has only two close friends, Serena and her cousin CJ, both of whom are pivotal to the plot and Hailey's ability to carry out her "mission"- rescuing Nidia- without attracting the attention of authorities. What is most intriguing about this thriller- and sometimes the cause of Compton's overreaching- is Hailey's friendship with Serena and, by extension, a partnership with an LA gang in an elaborate plan to protect Nidia once she has been rescued from her captors.
In a strange mix of characters, mobsters (from two different levels of criminals) and gang-bangers with an ethic all their own, most curious is Hailey herself and the secret she successfully hides from everyone who knows her, increasingly fearless in the face of diminishing odds, confronting her adversaries head on, shot down in Mexico and tortured in LA. Somehow Compton makes it all work, with a few wild stretches of imagination, a personal war carried out by a woman meant for West Point, her homegirl at her back, cold-eyed killers fighting over a helpless girl, a recipe for violence with a brilliant resolution. Luan Gaines/2010.