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The stories in this powerful collection swirl around the lives of immigrants trying to survive on the mean streets and in the drug-infested neighborhoods of Houston, Texas. The people who came there fight to escape the brutality, watch as their hopes fade, and still try to break free from the chain link fences that society has placed around them. These are tough and gritty chronicles of urban life, many involving recurring characters, that eloquently speak to the disparity between the world those who came to America dream of and what they actually find here. ~ Reviewed by Alden Graves
They were more than just victims. They had names -- Mary Ann, Annie, Elisabeth, Catherine, Mary Jane. They were little girls once with the same dreams and hopes that all children share. They aspired to escape from the mean, dreary lives that they inherited. Four of them married and three became mothers. Whether it was through their own weaknesses and failings or through cruel vagaries of fate, they ended up on the dark streets of the Whitechapel District of London in the fall of 1888. There, they encountered the person who would consign their names to history. It was a terrible way to be remembered. This is a literate, exhaustively researched, and compassionate study of the five canonical victims of Jack the Ripper. It brings into sharp relief the pitiless degradation that the poor were forced to endure and is as much an indictment of a misogynistic and cruelly unjust society as it is the sad chronicle of five lost lives. ~ Reviewed by Alden Graves
Billie James returns to her family's dilapidated home on the Mississippi Delta after being raised by her colorfully eccentric mother. She decides to look closer into the sudden death of her father, a noted African-American poet, when she was only four-years-old. The local authorities don't offer much help and Billie begins to suspect that she is inquiring about an incident that a lot of people would prefer to forget. Both atmospheric and intriguing, this debut novel boasts richly developed characters and, like the murky waters of the river than runs close to Billie's shack, exudes a sense of subtle menace and danger. ~ Reviewed by Alden Graves
An advisor to city police authorities, dying of consumption, is determined to find the killer of a man whose limbless, eyeless corpse was dragged out of a waste-fouled waterway. In terms of its impact on the reader's senses, this brilliant, intricately plotted mystery is a book to be experienced as much as it is to be applauded. The bone-chilling cold, the squalid lives, the fetid smells, the dank taverns and jails, and the unimaginable cruelty that exist in 18th century Stockholm are all woven into the fabric of this darkly mesmerizing tale. It is a journey best embarked upon by the stout-of-heart and it will not be soon forgotten. ~ Reviewed by Alden Graves
Two college friends get a lot more than they bargained for when they embark on a canoe journey through the Canadian wilderness to Hudson’s Bay. While a forest fire rages towards them, the men are drawn into another battle for survival that might prove to be more deadly than either the flames or the stretches of roaring whitewater ahead of them. This is an intense, compulsively readable adventure story, written by an author with an intimate knowledge of challenging the dangerous twists and turns of unspoiled rivers and the skill to explore the darker twists that exist in human nature. ~ Reviewed by Alden Graves