BOOK REVIEW / 'Overthrown by Strangers' - Ronan Bennett: Hamish Hamilton, 14.99.

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The Independent Culture
Sean Quinn, Agustin Cienfuegos de la Cruz and Judy Mendoza are outsiders. Through a quirk of fate - and a messy murder - the IRA terrorist, Peruvian bandit and American lawyer are thrown together in LA and forced to flee across the border into Mexico and beyond - chased, all the while, by a gang of ruthless 'power evangelists' known as The Mission.

Bennett handles the cliches of the peur sans frontieres thriller with panache; juggling time-lapses and serving up twists with lashings of local colour. Strong on characterisation, he is clearly outraged at the poverty and injustice suffered by millions in Latin America - but anger is diffused by the demands of the genre. The result is a powerful story which generates more pessimism than passion.