Reviewer Karen Dahood : Karen lives in Tucson, AZ. After 35 years as a writer for businesses and nonprofits, she has turned to writing mysteries,the subtext of which addresses ageism, unpreparedness for aging, and America's wealth of experience and wisdom. Learn more about eldersleuth Sophie George at the Website Moxie Cosmos; Making Sense of Life Through Writing.
Author: Edward Sheehy
Publisher: Dog Ear Publishing, 2018
All the thrills and chills of a contemporary crime novel are present in this story of a traumatized war veteran reluctantly redefining himself as a neighborhood activist. Sheehy reveals the underbelly of Progress, the nightmare evolving from the American Dream. Between the lines of this strong narrative about a man trying to overcome violent tendencies trained into him as a counter IED specialist in Iraq, and his horrific memories of a region blown to smithereens along with its inhabitants, is a documentary about displacement of people in our own country, for whom the local community they have settled is the only certainty. But it turns out there is no certainty in one’s chosen home. That deeply ingrained myth is being destroyed by something else all-too American, the assumption that every city needs improvement, and that professional planners and developers know best what is good for us. All our dreams for the future can be bulldozed by a power of government called Eminent Domain.
The neighborhood is in Washington, D.C., and its inhabitants are mainly Salvadoran refugees. Jack Cade, working as an independent cab driver in a rehabilitated Checker he calls the Green Flash, lives in this area where the rent is cheap but the people are warm and united in their struggle to build new lives far from their war-ravaged towns in Central America. The Grebe Valley apartment complex is to be razed to make room for The Grebe at Club Run. Luiz Guzmán, Cade’s friend at the Chapelita Community Center, draws him into a protest encouraged by a legal aid lawyer, female, who travels from Miami to wherever she must to direct local human rights activities. Cade is doubtful but motivated by his attachment to the local salon’s fortune-telling Cassandra, his main comfort and hope for healing. Becoming the protest leader by default, Cade has to confront the villains attacking the neighborhood from the shiny world outside and those attacking from the heart of the impoverished community. A young man has been attacked by a gang with a machete. Families are terrified and some are tempted to take the developers’ “relocation money” and the offer of apartments in a safer neighborhood. Then there is Soul Patch, Luiz’s older son, who got his education in prison and is making brilliant use of the dark web. In this dramatic character, the point is made that even the best parents have a tough time holding onto their children when the dreams migrate from friendly but poor communities to cash-heavy corporations.
I found Sheehy’s use of parallels, the brutal wars
in Iraq and El Salvador and this domestic one, all linked to economic
conquest, thought-provoking and even challenging. My family includes
professional planners and Realtors who are cognizant and sometimes
partners to the urban village movement. Our community is still trying
to make up for mistakes of the 1960surban redevelopment
that pushed coherent communities into soulless suburbs. And now, with
the controversy surrounding immigration and cultural conflict, the
pressure is increasing to more cautiously think through the process
of accommodating diverse needs. There will be rebellion. That was my
takeaway from this book, which is very well written, intelligent and
informative. Readers without this familiarity to the subjects of war
or city planning may simply enjoy the plot.