LITTLE BOY LOST
But when eight-year-old Tanisha Walker offers him a jar full of change to find her missing brother, he doesn’t have the heart to turn her away.
Justin had hoped to find the boy alive and well. But all that was found of Devon Walker was his brutally murdered body—and the bodies of twelve other African American teenagers, all discarded like trash in a mass grave.
Each had been reported missing. And none had been investigated.
As simmering racial tensions explode into violence, Justin finds himself caught in the tide. And as he gives voice to the discontent plaguing the city’s forgotten and ignored, he vows to search for the killer who preys upon them.
J.D. Trafford is an award-winning author who has been profiled in Mystery Scene Magazine (a “writer of merit”). His debut novel was selected as an IndieReader bestselling pick, and his books have topped Amazon’s bestseller lists, including Amazon’s #1 Legal Thriller.
In addition to graduating with honours from a Top 20 law school, J.D. has worked as a civil and criminal prosecutor, an associate at a large national law firm, and a non-profit attorney for people who could not afford legal representation.
Prior to law school, J.D. worked in Washington D.C. and lived in Saint Louis, Missouri. He worked on issues of housing, education, and poverty in communities of colour.
He now lives with his wife and children in the Midwest, and bikes whenever possible.
“Write what you yourself would like to read, a story that will entertain and challenge you. If you try and follow the trends or “write a bestseller,” I think you’ll be disappointed and probably won’t finish. Once you have your 75,000 words, step back and come back to it with a fresh eye…and then ruthlessly cut every extra word.”
It started with a pickle jar, half-filled with pocket change and a few dollar bills. The girl came into my office. She set the jar on my desk and sat down in the chair across from me. Her feet barely touched the ground.
Her name was Tanisha Walker.
“How old are you?” I asked.
She sat up a little straighter. “Eight and a half.”
“Got a daughter about that age, little older.” I leaned over and picked up the jar, examining it. On one side somebody had written in big block letters with black marker: CUSS JAR.
“Your mama know you took this jar?”
Tanisha shrugged. The beads in her hair clicked. “Ain’t my mama’s jar.” She thought about it for a moment, biting a nail, and then elaborated. “It’s my granny’s, an’ she won’t mind … least don’t think she would. Why should she? Ain’t doing nothin’ ‘cept sitting there, and so she -“
I held up my hand, cutting off the nervous ramble. “Maybe.” I put the jar back down on my desk. “Guess that depends on what you plan on doing with the money.”
“Gonna hire you with it.” She was serious. “Like they do on TV.”
“This is one of the biggest cemeteries in the country,” the pastor continued. “Eighty-seven thousand people are buried here. All races. All classes. All religions. Rich. Poor.” He paused. “It is truly sad that this is the most diverse neighbourhood in Saint Louis. Truly sad that the most diverse neighbourhood in our city is one for the dead and not the living.”
I pity most of them, although I’d likely be among the last people they’d want pity from. The racists on the edge of society were so fragile. The assumptions and lessons they’d been taught for generations now under attack from all directions, they had to feel what little they had was in danger of being taken away. Racism had become the last defense of a way of life that’d been dead for over a century.
Perhaps the worst part was that I knew exactly how Jimmy Poles would respond when confronted about his online and off-line activities. He’d smirk and dismiss me as politically correct. He’d talk about his right to free speech. He’d talk about defending the Constitution from both foreign and domestic threats – people who looked like me, of course, being the domestic threat.
In a city divided and broken, this revelation will set it on fire…
I can see that this storyline might be more than a little controversial with some readers, a sentiment which seems to have been borne out by the comments I have received following the various promotional posts I have run for the book. These are either issues you are comfortable about confronting, or would rather not see committed to print in this way – no halfway measures here, I’m afraid!
Personally, I agree totally with the sentiments, which I am assuming are his own. expressed by the author, through his protagonists and have no quelms in recommending the book as an excellent read in the genre and as a social history record of the modern times in which we live. In fact my only criticism and personal opinion, might be that the book didn’t go far enough in highlighting the racial tensions caused by the discovery of more than one mass grave, where the bodies of young coloured childen were buried. The City and community reactions to these horrific discoveries were almost like ripples on a pond, when I would like to think that in real life they would have caused a tidal wave of public opinon, condemnation and outrage, not to mention a huge police investigation and manhunt.
Whilst I found J.D.’s writing style fluid, conversational and easy to read, I did find that it tended to meander off at a tangent quite readily and was sometimes a little more passive and not as full of tension, as I might have hoped for. However, the descriptive qualities of several passages within the story, more than made up for that, with the narrative being easy to follow, well constructed and rich in detail.
The charaters were generally multifaceted, although I didn’t find any of them particularly engaging and there was little or no synergy between them – almost no sense of ‘belonging’. Justin is a very difficult and emotionally complex character to really get to know, but how much of that is due to his recent and tragic loss and how much his own inherent insecurity, I couldn’t really tell.
As a single parent Justin is clearly struggling to keep body and soul together for the sake of his mixed race daughter, Sammy, although given the nature of his current investigation and the political minefield which his politician brother is asking him to become a part of, the way in which he deals with her being bullied at school, is far from being reflective of the beliefs on which he will stake his public future. He caves in all too readily to the family request that Sammy be allowed to move schools, to a privately run establishment, at their expense, when perhaps in reality, he might have been better served by taking up the challenge of changing beliefs within the school.
The story line got off to a great start, and although well paced, multi aspect and with new information being added at a steady rate, I felt that it lost some of its momentum along the way and I was waiting with baited breath for a stronger ending, which didn’t materialise. Unlike some of my fellow readers though, I didn’t see the identity of the master criminal coming and I felt that the police were portrayed as very complacent, almost complicit, in brushing the entire affair under the carpet.
The combination of traditional thriller, legal drama and political intrigue, whilst making this story line almost too far reaching in its complexity, brings to the fore, issues which are so inextricably linked that it would have taken several volumes to have dealt with each of them on an individual basis and in any substantial detail. Therefore I felt that a compromise balance between length of story and content value, was achieved quite nicely by the author.
My 4 star rating takes into account all the little quirks and niggles I had about the book, which when taken as a complete package, was very readable and most enjoyable, although often troubling and disturbing. I also look forward to catching up with J.D’s ‘Michael Collins’ series, very soon.
I would like to thank the lovely Claire McLaughlin from ‘Little Bird Publicity‘ for the complimentary addition to my virtual book shelf.
Despite the gift, any thoughts or comments are my own personal opinion and I am in no way being monetarily compensated for this, or any other article I may have written about the book.
I personally do not agree with ‘rating’ a book, as the overall experience is all a matter of personal taste, which varies from reader to reader. However some review sites do demand a rating value, so when this review is posted to such a site, it will attract a well deserved 4 out of 5.