Little Boy Lost by J.D. Trafford. Sometimes a book comes along that feels like a microcosm of our world, and Trafford's novel about the turbulence in St. Louis when a series of murders are discovered contains many of the elements society currently struggles with.
Jason Glass is a down and out lawyer from a mixed background. His mother is white and his father is black; his white grandfather is a retired Federal District Court Judge who continues to hold great political influence; his black father, a U.S. Congressman, has recently decided to retire. Money and influence abound in this family, but Jason, who has been in a severe depression since the death of his wife, has neither.
Tanisha, a young black girl, brings a pickle jar full of coins into Jason's office hoping to hire him to find her missing sixteen-year-old brother. Jason explains that he is a lawyer, not the police or a detective. (Or a charity, he thinks privately as he swelters in his office because he can't afford to have his air conditioner fixed.) But Jason does end up promising to give Tanisha limited help.
When Tanisha's brother is found, his is only one of many bodies of young black males buried in a secluded area. Jason is quickly besieged by parents of missing boys who do not know if their sons are among the dead and who do not trust the police.
There are so many themes in this novel and all of them are treated respectfully, not glorified or exploited mawkishly. It is a murder mystery by genre, but much more than that, the novel explores problems that are neither new nor likely to diminish any time soon.
Initially, I wasn't sure whether I would like this one, but it didn't take long for me to become engaged not only with the characters, but with the way Trafford included important issues as part and parcel of the narrative without ever seeming pedantic or preachy.
A few quotes about some of the larger issues that may sound preachy out of context, but were skillfully submerged in the story:
"That's why Congress is so dysfunctional. It isn't politics that's the problem. It's the people who get into politics."
"The anonymous person had put Jimmy Poles on trial and convicted him through the Internet. It was inflammatory. It wasn't fair, but it was effective. ...This was the new world."
"Saint Louis had always had an identity crisis. It was the intersection of North, South, East and West."
"The news reports were caricatures--information and images manipulated to support the political priorities of either the left or the right."
"'Oh, Mr. Glass, they never get tired of violence.' Then she looked out the window at the sky, maybe thinking about all the violence that she'd seen in Bosnia, thinking that most Americans didn't know how fragile things really were."
NetGalley/Thomas & Mercer
Crime/Politics. Aug. 1, 2017. Print length: 318 pages.