by Bob Sanchez
Review by Mel Jacob
CreateSpace Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781451539028
Date: 22 March 2011 List Price $15.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Little Mountain, a gritty police procedural, offers a hard-bitten glimpse into two worlds. One is the Lowell, Massachusetts, Cambodian enclave while the second is life in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. Police detective Sam Long is assigned to investigate the murder of a local landlord and large property owner. What appears at first as a simple murder for hire becomes more complex the deeper Sam looks.
Sam suffers nightmares and flashbacks to his teen years in Cambodia where friends were forced to kill friends and relatives to survive. Torture was a way of life. He watched his father burnt to death at the hands of a murderous camp commander. Rumors about the landlord raise suspicions in Sam's mind that he is the man who killed his father in Cambodia.
Meanwhile, Sam's partner has a wife dying of leukemia and his boss tells the man to spend time with his family, but refuses to assign anyone else to work on the case. Others have told Sam the lieutenant has it in for him. His boss first orders him to solve the case quickly and then later tells him the case is closed and to leave it alone.
Sam's fights corruption at all levels. He tries to help the Cambodian immigrants, but they distrust the police and him. He fights to solve a case others consider closed. Valuable evidence is misplaced or destroyed.
Few people will talk to Sam. They fear reprisals from a variety of sources. A third person was present when the landlord was shot, but his wife refuses to say anything. His boss berates Sam for questioning her.
A teen-age Cambodian gang of punks, the Battboys, cause havoc in the enclave. Sam suspects one of them may have been the killer. Despite universal dislike of the gang members, no one offers any information.
Flashbacks reveal Sam's life and survival amid the turmoil of the Khmer Rouge era in Cambodia. In spite of the violence, he prefers to create a new life for himself in the United States. He finds his English teacher attractive and eventually marries her over her father's objections. They have a young daughter he vows will know her heritage.
Action-filled and violent, the mystery's realism may be too much for cozy readers. The language pulls no punches. It provides a compelling and sympathetic portrayal of a man determined to survive and make a place for himself and his family in a troubled world. It would fit well with Soho Press ethnic mysteries.