Crossing the Line

by Clinton McKinzie

I know a family with two adult children, a boy and a girl,
separated by only a couple of years. The parents have been married
for 50-plus years, and have no substance abuse problems. Everyone
was raised on Donna Reed and Ozzie and Harriet. The daughter is a
sweetheart, married with a couple of ankle biters of her own, a
midlevel executive in a mid-sized company. However, the son has
been a piece of work since he was two years old. When he was four,
he deliberately broke my favorite toy. He continued on a path of
self-destruction, thievery and embezzlement --- you name it, he has
done, and is doing, it to this very day. Siblings --- same
heredity, same environment. One cake rises, the other goes flat.

Clinton McKinzie has been sort of exploring that same territory
with the Burns Brothers, Antonio and Roberto. Antonio is a Special
Agent for the Wyoming Department of Criminal Investigation, while
his brother Roberto has been what might be generously referred to
as a renegade, assisting drug mules during dangerous desert
transport and happily sampling their wares, always in search of the
next artificial rush. The brothers, notwithstanding their
differences, are close, sharing a passion that borders on a
pathology for climbing. Indeed, the act of climbing is a metaphor
that is infused throughout McKinzie's latest novel, a herald of
passion, betrayal, trust, cooperation and ever-present

CROSSING THE LINE begins with Antonio Burns on the threshold of
some resolution of a number of personal issues. He is in a stable
if somewhat uneasy relationship with Rebecca, his intended; he
still has his badge and position, even if he is walking on
tenterhooks; and his beloved brother Antonio appears to be on the
verge of completing a deal that will get him out from under some
troubles with the law. All Roberto has to do is help the FBI take
down a drug dealer named Jesus Hidalgo, a murderous kingpin who is
hiding in plain sight at a fortress-like ranch in the mountains of
Wyoming. To do this, he must infiltrate Hidalgo's compound and
gather evidence against him.

Roberto, it seems, saved Hidalgo's life during a rock climb several
years previously, and the murderous drug dealer in a twisted way
regards Roberto as a friend. While Roberto's end of the deal isn't
exactly a cakewalk, it doesn't seem to be impossible. In return,
Roberto will be granted leniency with respect to several criminal
charges that are outstanding against him, do his time in a minimum
care facility with an exercise room and a salad bar, and receive
some federally sponsored drug rehabilitation treatment.

The Feebs bring Antonio in to help them keep an eye on Roberto. But
from the beginning, the setup looks like ... a setup. The FBI
agents, a young woman named Mary Chang and a veteran with a mad-on
named Tom Cochran, are at odds with the Burns Brothers and each
other almost from the gitgo. Also, it turns out that they have a
program of their own. When things go sideways for Roberto, Antonio
takes matters into his own hands --- unaware that he is doing
exactly what was expected of him.

McKinzie does a fine job here of delineating the characters of
Roberto and Antonio. While they function on opposite sides of the
law, Antonio has a wild, uncontrolled side to him that has earned
him --- unjustly --- the unfortunate nickname of "QuickDraw," while
there is a fierce but subdued nobility within Roberto. McKinzie
leaves a number of significant issues hanging at the conclusion of
CROSSING THE LINE, an indication that another novel concerning the
Burns Family will be in the offing. Considering the tension that
infuses CROSSING THE LINE from beginning to end, McKinzie's next
installment will have a built-in audience.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 21, 2011

Crossing the Line
by Clinton McKinzie

  • Publication Date: March 1, 2005
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Mass Market Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Dell
  • ISBN-10: 0440240816
  • ISBN-13: 9780440240815