Join me in welcoming our newest Pal, Sam Waite, with his first review for Books and Pals today.
Reviewed by: Sam Waite
Approximate word count: 25-30,000 words
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Felipe Adan Lerma’s works of fiction include, among others, the Samantha (Sam) Lacroix series of suspense novels; Slumming in Paris series of short works, and several books of poems. When not writing fiction, Mr. Lerma spends time with his grandchildren, practices yoga and paints.
For more, visit his website.
A young Mexican girl wandering the streets of a Texas border town is picked up by an apparently well intentioned woman who steals a kitten from a truck for the girl to hold and to help win her trust. The kitten is later the key to a mystery. The girl is taken to a Hill Country vineyard and held with other children by the woman and her brother, who put a twist on human trafficking. The children are used as bait to lure pedophiles. The siblings were abused as children and left with deeply scared psyches that fuel not only their drive for vengeance, but also latent incestuous feelings.
The creative story line and early hook of the lone girl picked up on the border promise more than the book delivers. The twisted and scared characters that should chill the reader or evoke admiration and sympathy aren’t satisfyingly developed. Lupita’s parents were killed and she is told to flee or she will die. Why did she go to the U.S. instead of to a family member in Mexico? How did she cross the border? Why did she trust the woman, Tara? What are her fears or ambitions? The psychotic brother Rolf isn’t the dark and scary madman a reader deserves to hate. Tara goes through the motions of kidnapping children to bait bad guys, but we don’t see inside her mind. Have the siblings actually encountered a pedophile? We aren’t told or shown. What did or would they do if they caught one? There’s no hint.
The kitten, which has a distinctive star pattern on its head, is an intriguing plot device, but it is tracked down by a young boy using the Internet. I gave this a go on Google. It’s a stretch, even if one of the kidnappers had used a home computer to post kitten photos.
Many sentences simply made no sense or were jarringly bad writing:
“They lay breathless like a hand without a thumb.”
“Lupita ran her other eye up one side of the door’s light then the other.”
“Only their breaths moved.”
“Tara felt her brother tense…brought him tightly to her, breasts pressed, small vibrating balloons on flat rock.”
Still, the pacing is quick, the writing terse and the plot imaginative.
Problems with basic English plague the writing. A camera was robbed, which caused this reader to wonder what items the robber stole from the camera. “Bard wire” was a humorous standout among many typos and misspellings such as over-done, re-confirming, “now” instead of “know.” “Further” is consistently used to indicate distance. The book is written in third person, except for one inexplicable switch to first person. “I knew what he meant, but said, ‘How do you mean.’”
There is curious use of the dash, which sometimes replaces periods, or commas or in this case dropped into what should be a blank space:
“Tara gazed down at the girl - staring at Tara's childhood whelp on her arm.”
Rating: *** Three Stars