Sins of the Younger Sons by Jan Reid

Praise for

Sins Of The Younger Sons

“If Graham Greene or Robert Stone had turned

their literary talents toward the Basque separatist

struggle and its complex history and political

intrigue, the result would be a book very much

like Jan Reid’s outstanding novel Sins of the

Younger Sons. Reid’s story is a fascinating blend

of page-turning thriller and vivid tableau of

Basque culture and the movement that battled

the Spanish establishment for many decades. A

reader can’t ask for more—a book that’s engaging,

entertaining, educative, and unique.”


—THOMAS ZIGAL, author of Many Rivers

to Cross and The White League


“By dramatizing the romance of his central characters amidst escalating violence inflamed by the Basque separatist group ETA, Reid humanizes the history of the people’s struggle. For centuries, the Basque have fought to liberate themselves from what they consider Spanish oppression, paying a heavy price. …  Tempering the harsh events in his narrative, Reid also fashions scenes depicting the warmth, beauty and charm of daily life in Basque country — and at Luke’s home in Texas — with a colorful cast of supporting characters, ranging from a famous artist and a self-important priest to undercover agents and the eccentric but loving people in Luke’s and Ysolina’s families. Page by page, ‘Sins of the Younger Sons’ invites the reader to dwell for a while within its unique world, to suffer and celebrate with its unforgettable characters. It’s a trip that, if taken, is well worth the effort.”

ED CONROY, San Antonio Express-News

“What a fine book Jan Reid has written! At once

history—both cultural and political—and sensual

love story, it reaches beyond genre to make

for a magical and profound reading experience.

Don’t start reading it at night unless you want

to stay up until dawn and then some.”


—BEVERLY LOWRY, author of Who Killed

These Girls? and Harriet Tubman:

Imagining a Life


“For nearly fifty years, Austin writer Jan Reid’s nonfiction books, novels, and magazine articles have focused mainly on Texas, the American Southwest, and Mexico. When I first saw the novel’s title, I assumed the book would be a 19th Century Western [and] Sins of the Younger Sons does, in fact, involve outlaws, but here’s the surprise: It’s set in 20th-Century Basque Country, the long troubled area of northern Spain and Southwestern France that is divided by the western Pyrenees and by multiple dialects of the Basque tongue.  Some of the key characters in Reid’s enlightening, engrossing new book are Basque separatists, members of the feared ETA…

“Nonetheless, a Texan is central to the book: Luken ‘Luke’ Burgoa, an ex-boxer and ex-Marine with Texas Basque roots [and] now an agent for a U.S. intelligence agency he calls the Outfit.  Luke speaks the Navarrese dialect of Basque reasonably well, plus South Texas Spanish and some French. Any one of those tongues could get him killed if he happened to be in the wrong place or with the wrong faction at the wrong time.  Luke’s pack-mule mission is to get close to, and report on, a man named Andoni Peru Madariaga. In Reid’s detail-rich thriller, Madariaga is ‘máximo dirigente, the leader of the separatist and terrorist of leader ETA [and] is wanted for everything from assassination to sabotage of a nuclear power plant.’… Meanwhile, Madariaga’s wife, Ysolina, a former academic and environmental activist, is tired of living on the run and having Spanish warrants out for her arrest [and] she warms quickly to Luke, adding more danger to his life and mission.

“Sins of the Younger Sons vividly takes us into a world few of us have seen and into a bitter conflict most have never considered nor understood.”

— SI DUNN, Dallas Morning News


The protagonist of Sins of the Younger Sons, Luke Burgoa, comes from a family of Texas ranchers who were chased across the Rio Grande by the Mexican Revolution. Neighbors think those are just hard-working exiles from that other land who herd and shear sheep and goats and get elected to the Salt Lick school board. But they have been sustained by the history, culture, and language of Basques who came to the New World as whalers, cod fishermen, priests, soldiers, and some in time vaqueros. The father knows which son is best-equipped to carry on with the ranch, so Luke is cut loose with a financial inheritance and becomes a marine captain in off-the-book missions protecting oil companies and their workers in South America. That ends badly for him, as for his commanding officer, and they wind up with one of our U.S. intelligence agencies that Luke calls the Outfit. He’s sent to gain the confidence and entrap the military commander of the Basque separatist group ETA in the Basque provinces of Spain in a gunrunning scheme out of rain-forest Ecuador. Luke knows the Outfit’s interest in ETA is the extent to which they are allied with Muslim jihadists, and they haven’t been reading much Basque-Moorish history if they believe that. But the money is good, Luke is curious about the old country, and the Americans want to be able to capture ETA's military commander, Peru Madariaga, and hand him over to the Spaniards. Instead Luke falls in love with the estranged wife of Peru, whose name is Ysolina Madariaga. She lives well in Paris but in forced exile as a thwarted doctoral candidate. She wants to write about an ancestor who was caught up in a Spanish Inquisition witchcraft craze in the early 17th century, and the essential archives—and her heart’s longing—are in her homeland ruled by Spain. From the day they cross the Pyrenees border into the Spanish Basque country, the trajectory of their love affair on the run puts Luke, Ysolina, and Peru on a collision course with each other that culminates in a plot that involves King Juan Carlos of Spain, the celebrated American architect Frank Gehry, and the famed Guggenheim Museum in the Basque city of Bilbao, an industrial backwater haunted by the Spanish Civil War—and a hotbed of ETA extremism. But to me it’s a love triangle. Ysolina needs a ride.