I was sent a complimentary copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review. That fact didn’t influence my opinion in any way.
Two cousins, Shorty (a.k.a. Darnell James Davis) and Booker T. Davis, get involved in a grisly murder when one of them finds a dismembered body of a young gang member in a dustbin behind a local restaurant. Their ex- foster parent and a friend, Irma Cochran, believes her ‘boys’ are innocent. She does what she can to prevent the police from arresting any of them but a 70-year-old woman has no chance to protect two adult black men sleeping on the streets of Chicago even if her own reputation as an experienced foster parent and a social worker borders on sainthood.
A reporter, Jo Sullivan, stumbles accidentally on this case and wants to investigate it further as it involves Booker, a young man who not so long ago was an exemplary case of the social system success: a homeless orphan on a straight path to get his degree, find a steady job and leave the streets of Chicago for good. What could make such a hard-working, level -headed, smart student commit such a serious crime? Is he really a perpetrator? If not, why his ID card was found near the body?
What I liked:
It was a pretty original story, quite well constructed plot-wise, with non-nonsense characters and a murder mystery not that easy to solve. After initial problems I admit it was difficult to stop reading and the ending satisfied me completely.
I liked especially the characterization – as three-dimensional as you might wish. Jo Sullivan, working for a local newspaper, had also other problems to deal with; contrary to some of her fictional sister sleuths she didn’t live and breathe just to solve crimes and drink coffee. Not even that particular crime, concerning a boy who strived to overcome all odds and earn his degree.
Also Booker was an interesting protagonist to follow. He wasn’t idealized, he wasn’t a ‘saintly saint’ but a real human being with a darker side.
What I didn’t like:
I admit it was difficult at first to get interested in the plot; it took a while (about 30-40 pages) before I was truly hooked. The multiple narrative voices (3rd person limited) didn’t help either.
Still my biggest carping is that the author left the ‘nature vs. nurture’ issue practically untouched, never trying to explain what made two boys raised by the same woman in practically the same circumstances choose so differently, one cousin joining a street gang and the other – cleaning his act and going to a college.
I am also not exactly a huge fan of the cover art – I grand it, it reflects the mood of the novel well but is, in my opinion, too drab to catch anybody’s attention. Isn’t the cover supposed to sell the book?
An original whodunit with a social bent, realistic characters and plenty of twists and turns. It also tackled homelessness in a caring, sensitive manner although I wish it went a bit deeper.