by Robert Fate
Review by Gayle Surrette
Capital Crime Press Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 0977627691
Date: September, 2006 List Price $14.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Baby's father used to say she was seventeen going on thirty. She didn't know how true that was until the night her father was killed, Henry Chin's son was killed and a gang of bikers raped and beat her leaving her and Henry for dead. Henry Chin saved her life that night by dragging her out of the fire. He saved her life again by taking her in and giving her a place to live and a purpose. The police had decided the fire was an accident, she deserved what happened to her since she was at a pool hall, and there were no deaths. They began to train because Henry and Kristen Van Dijk were going to deliver their own justice as soon as they could find the bikers responsible.
Robert Fate has done an excellent job of portraying the problems for non-whiles and women in the southwest in 1952. I'd heard about this book and read some of the reviews before reading it but expected a lot more violence than there was. The rape and beating are handled with sensitivity -- most happens off screen in flashbacks and bits and pieces and the reader can fill in the blanks. Kristin is well-read, intelligent, and as our narrator she's perceptive and thoughtful. She's not a killer, but she knows that she will kill the men who killed her father and Henry's son. As the story evolves, Kristen and Henry realize that without thinking about it they are now family and there is a lot of love and caring in that relationship.
I found myself caring deeply about what Kristin would ultimately do and while I might not agree with her choice it evolves out of the person she was and the woman she becomes throughout the book. Henry Chin is more of a cipher but as the story progresses you begin to see what lead to his choices and how those choices have changed him also.
Then beyond the characters, there is the story. There's corruption in the police department, cover-ups, big money allowing murder to go unpunished, betrayals, and unexpected help when it's needed.
I don't think a reader can ask for more than a good story, well told with characters that seem alive. And, if that story has meaning beyond the covers of the book, that gives the reader a chance to reflect on the changes in society over the decades and how if it hasn't changed, then maybe it will also lead the readers to make some decisions about their lives and how they live them.