Ben Rehder is the Edgar-nominated author of the Blanco County mystery series, but in The Chicken Hanger, he's exploring new territory. It's a look at the problem of illegal immigration in Texas, told from the points of view of a number of characters, primarily one of the immigrants, a burned-out Border Patrol officer, and a rancher. Ricky, the immigrant, works in a chicken processing plant. You might never eat chicken again after reading about the job he does. His brother, Tomas, crosses into Texas illegally, and he gets his thumb shot off by the rancher. After that, things get complicated by psittacosis, lawsuits, and plenty of other problems.
This book comes from a prestigious university press, but don't let that scare you. It's not one of those literary novels with no plot and characters who eat little sandwiches with no crusts on them. It's full of action and great characters, and there's even a good bit of humor. It's also a fairly even-handed look at the immigration problem. Rehder doesn't duck the facts, and he's careful to show both sides, though Ricky and his brother are certainly sympathetic characters as opposed to some of the others.
If you're looking for a well-written, provocative novel that's a little bit different, you can't go wrong. Highly recommended.