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Mike Pritchard’s daughter, Emily, is kidnapped by a sex trafficker, who delivers a concussive blow to Mike’s head during the abduction. The brain trauma endows him with the ability to detect the scent of a girl’s soul, the olfactory equivalent to seeing a person’s aura.
His obsession with finding Emily, as well as his burden of guilt, lead to estrangement from his wife. Now a loner and a private investigator, Mike plunges into the cesspool of organized crime in Washington state’s urban centers where he rescues trafficked girls, delivers vigilante justice, and hunts for clues to Emily’s whereabouts.
When a clue to the abductor’s location unearths in Spokane, Mike faces a heart-wrenching dilemma—to either risk the lives of other trafficked girls or else never learn what happened to his long-lost daughter.
Genre: Adult Urban Fantasy Crime
Publisher: Scrub Jay Journeys (May 5, 2018)
Page Count: 314 pages
Though this isn't Bryan Davis's first foray into adult fiction this is definitely the most mature subject he's decided to write about. Because of the adult nature of the content, he even decided to choose a pseudonym for the cover so his younger YA readers wouldn't pick up the book thinking it's a clean piece of fiction. It's definitely a gritty story about the realities of the sex trafficking industry, but I'm happy he had the bravery to put out this story. Though he shopped it around to multiple publishers with no takes, he decided to self-publish.
The Plot: This story has a lot of elements to it. Crime, mystery, and a bit of fantasy/superhero with Mike's abilities. It's hard to put into one category. The story involves the main character, who has now built up a superhero-like persona, wading into the sex trafficking industry to save these girls. Then there is also the objective of finding his daughter who was kidnapped by a pimp. Throughout the book, you're hoping and praying that he finds his lost daughter.
The Characters: Mike is a very selfless hero. He's given up everything to save as many girls as he can from sex trafficking. He's also clever and found ways to make sure he can get the girls out and to safety. He asks for payment in return for his help because he has to make a living, he keeps first aid supplies in his car, he keeps disguises and money to bribe people, and he has a partner that helps him on his jobs.
The story also goes into the point of view of his wife Deborah who is living with his autistic son. It was nice to see an autistic character portrayed.
Mike encounters several different girls who've been kidnapped or have found their way into the industry in other ways. Though kidnapping is a reality a lot of times girls get seduced into the industry with the pimp posing as a boyfriend. Then by the time the girl realizes what she's gotten into, she can't get out. Girls will feel trapped in the industry because they don't have good homes to go back to. These are all sad realities.
My biggest complaint about the whole book is that the dialogue is very clunky at times. I found myself wincing at some of the phrases that seemed out of place like "trauma drama" and "fool." Trauma drama felt like a really brush-off way to refer to the trauma that a girl would experience after being raped and seemed to go against the mood of the book whenever it was used. There was also some more eloquent terminology like "fool" used and though this would work in a fantasy setting it seemed out of place in a modern setting since most people don't talk like that. Some people do. I do, but it didn't seem fitting for these characters.
The Setting: I've never read a book that's set in Washington, so it was neat to see a story set there even though the worst parts of it were portrayed.
The Theme: There are a lot of themes about the value of life and that every girl deserves to be loved and cared for. Life can beat people down and convince them that they don't mean anything to anyone, but Mike shows these girls that they do have value and are worth fighting for.
Content Cautions: This has the most content of any Bryan Davis novel I've read (and if you look below at the list you'll see I've read a lot and that's not even everything). But all of it is done very tastefully and Mr. Davis wanted to portray the situation and characters as accurately as possible.
There are several young girls that had just been raped or even gang-raped, some are found naked. There are pornographic photos and videos of rape though none are described in too much detail. There's talk about penetration and semen in the context of rape. Mention of incestual abuse. Brief talk about oral sex. Mention of prostitution.
Multiple characters are shot dead with guns, one through the head. Knife wounds and gunshot wounds. Out of shot torture involving broken fingers. A man beats a girl with a belt.
Girls are drugged. And there's mention of characters using cocaine and marijuana.
The middle finger gesture is used and there is also some swearing because let's be real, people in this horrible industry swear. Seven uses of d*** and bi***, two uses of crap and bullsh*t, and one use of a**, hell, and bast***.
What We Can Take Away For Our Writing:
*SPOILERS*Reversing an Ability From Good to Bad - At about midway through the book, Mike finally meets Sugar Daddy aka Vega, the man who kidnapped Mike's daughter. He forces Mike to use his ability to find girls to bring into the sex trafficking industry as opposed to saving them.
How this can be applied to writing: Is there a way your characters' abilities can be used for evil? Could a bad guy exploit that or would they turn dark because of the character's choices?
*END OF SPOILERS*
Conclusion: This is a really powerful book. Though it is disturbing more people need to be aware of what goes on in the underbelly of Western society and sometimes a novel brings that home far more than PSAs, News Reports, and signs.
About the Author:
Bryan Davis is the author of the following young adult fantasy series: Dragons in our Midst, Oracles of Fire, Echoes from the Edge, and Dragons of Starlight. He also wrote I Know Why the Angels dance, a contemporary novel for adults.
After laboring as a computer geek for 20 years, Bryan followed a dream to become an author. He began by writing a story to motivate his seven children to gain some excitement about writing, and that story grew into a novel. After spending the next eight years learning the craft and enduring more than 200 rejections from publishers and agents, he broke through with his best-selling series Dragons in our Midst. He is now a full-time author and lives with his wife, Susie, and their children in western Tennessee.
You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and his website! I also have an interview with him I had on the blog!
I've reviewed several other books by this author: