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Roxana Arama
Extreme Vetting
Roxana Arama, author
An immigration lawyer fights to keep her client from being deported to the country where his family was murdered many years ago. Then she finds out the killers are coming here—for both of them.
Arama’s debut, a heart-wrenching thriller, offers an urgent look at the legal processes, shady dealings, and dehumanizing bureaucracy of U.S. immigration law circa 2019, as Seattle immigration lawyer Laura Holban, who on page one is ready to “fight like hell” to stop the deportation of children. When undocumented father Emilio Ramirez is picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement at his sons' school, young David reaches out to Laura for help. Laura's passion for her job, her clients, and their families stems from her own background as a legal immigrant from Romania. But what should be an easy case takes on a sinister turn when she uncovers a conspiracy that could cost Laura her career, her citizenship, and her life.

True to its title, Extreme Vetting is a dark, at times violent, legal thriller that lovers of humane suspense will enjoy for its fast pace, crusading hero, and character-driven storyline that doesn’t skimp on tension or seedy, duplicitous characters. Arama has crafted a plot that centers on a government conspiracy, with scenes of action and kidnapping, while still offering an illuminating look at immigration and deportation laws. The story of Emilio, his family, and his citizenship status (he came to the U.S. from Guatemala in 1998) grips as Arama invests her characters with depth, compassion, and vulnerability.

Arama writes fleet, crisp prose and a variety of characters and situations, as Laura faces ICE prosecutors, a predatory real estate agent, and worse, all with a welcome sense of realism, though the exciting climax feels less convincingly real than the buildup.Still, this is a harrowing but empathetic story that captures the struggles and horrors faced by the undocumented and their families as they strive for a better and safe life in America. Arama captures a complex real-life bind in the language of a commercial thriller: how shedding and fleeing a dangerous past can lead to fighting unbending and unfeeling laws.

Takeaway: A humane, suspenseful thriller about immigration law and its fallout.

Comparable Titles: Orlando Ortega-Medina’s The Fitful Sleep of Immigrants, Mark M. Bello’s Betrayal at the Border.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A