by Tim O'Mara
Cover Artist: Marc Yankus
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250008985
Date: 16 October 2012 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /
Did you ever have a schoolteacher who went the extra mile to help his/her students? I once had a ninth-grade English teacher, Mrs. Porterfield, who wrote on one of my essays that it was students like me who made her job worthwhile. Some teachers are looked upon as heroes. Ray Donne (pronounced "Done") of Tim OíMara's remarkable mystery, Sacrifice Fly, can definitely be described as heroic. He truly cares about his students. For example, he risks his life in order to locate one of his missing students and bring them safely home. Sacrifice Fly is a fast-paced noir with gentle touches of humor and romance. It is also a timely, emotional drama involving a teacher who dares to make a difference in the lives of at-risk children.
The novel's primary setting consists of the slums and projects of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It is a dangerous neighborhood for lost children--a neighborhood that has become a sticky web of corruption spun by an evil spider of a man. At the center of the web is Ray who has been drawn to it like a fly--a fly that will have to be sacrificed for learning too much about the spider's plans. Fortunately, Ray has friends: a high-ranking police officer, who happens to be his uncle and who also shares his name, and a high-tech computer geek, Edward. Despite his crippled knees and having to walk with the aid of an umbrella, Ray is also quite the ladies man. Women of all races make passes at him. He's also a tough guy who doesn't let anyone push him around, no matter how big and ugly they are; he often comes to the aid of the weak.
Ray is also haunted by his past. When he was a child, he came home from a weekend trip with his mom and sister and found his father in his study, dead with a heart attack. He can sympathize with Frankie who also found his father dead. Furthermore, Ray is torn between being a police officer and a teacher. Part of him still yearns to be a cop; this is why he isnít quick to correct anyone when they assume he is one. Many of us, like Ray, are still haunted by tragedies in our pasts; we are unable to let go of these tragedies until we feel we can somehow change them. In helping Frankie come home, Ray will be helping himself come home to a normal world where he is capable of making emotional attachments and commitments.
Sacrifice Fly couldn't have been published at a more timely manner when the jobs of schoolteachers are being closely scrutinized in the media. They have become a hot topic among politicians in the upcoming elections. Are teachers financially compensated for the work they perform? This has always been a controversial question that has spawned tremendous debate. Recently, the teachers in Chicago went on strike. At the center of the strike are teacher evaluations. I can imagine they are a great source of stress. If I was evaluating Ray Donne, I would give him an A+. Hopefully, I will be able to evaluate his performance in future sequels as well. A mystery series involving a schoolteacher who is always coming to the aid of his troubled students would be nice.
Teachers most definitely will want to read Sacrifice Fly, especially since it was written by Tim OíMara, a teacher in the New York City public school system. Nothing revs up the tension in a noir like children in peril, and this novel has several of them. A flawed, but likeable, hero; his goofy sidekick; a crime-infested setting; an incredibly deceitful villain; beautiful women; and children in peril make Sacrifice Fly a truly unique mystery. It was well worth the few hours that I had to sacrifice in order to read it. OíMaraís next assignment is to write a sequel, and it is due ASAP.