Stolen Lives – Two 5 Star Reviews and a Snippet

I mentioned in my last post that once the last line and paragraph are written, there are several emotions felt my any author. One of them is anxiety, because once the book is released to the public, the book ceases to be the author’s book, but becomes the reader’s book. When that happens, the author hopes any and every reader will naturally fall in love with it and speak glowingly about it.

That doesn’t always happen. I believe there will always be those for whom the book falls short and fails to satisfy. It happens. Sadly, it is inevitable. Look at some of your favorite authors and notice the Amazon or B & N ratings for their books. Not all are 5 Star. Some might actually be a 1 or 2 Star in a reader’s mind. I’ve had my share of both.

Authors try. We do our best. Honestly, we don’t write for the reader, but rather for ourselves. We have a story to tell and we tell it as best we can. What the reader thinks of it and how the reader reacts to it is out of our hands upon publication.

I recently received two 5 Star Reviews for Stolen Lives, Book One of the Lives Trilogy, from two well-respected reviewers. I wanted to share them with you. When I first read them, I was stunned. They took my breath away, literally and figuratively. I am also experienced to realize that not all readers will feel the same way about Stolen Lives as I would like them to feel. As I said, upon publication, the reader’s response is out of my hands, and out of any author’s hands. Still, I am honestly pleased and proud of these two reviews. They are below.

From BestThrillers.com

The Bottom Line: A harrowing and unforgettable FBI thriller. 

On a Navajo reservation in Arizona, 14-year-old George Tokay witnesses the brutal murder of another boy in the desert. FBI Agent Pete Kelliher arrives soon thereafter, and is counting on George’s testimony to find the murderer of the new victim and a dozen others like him.

Kelliher believes the killers are running a sex trafficking operation. Some of the victims had whip marks in their backs. A few others had small brands. All were abducted over a year before their death at between 11-and-12-years of age.

Kelliher and his team are desperate to solve the case, in part because they know just how grim the statistics are. Hundreds of kids go missing each year. Just 32% will be found alive. 

In Stolen Lives, author Joseph Lewis continues to tackle delicate subject matter that few can bear to think about, much less craft a thriller around. Lewis dares to get inside the minds of not only the killers, but the adolescent victims. Scenes told from the abductees’ points of view manage to be both heartbreaking and an incredible testament to children’s capacity for survival. The net result is a terrifying but important novel that no reader could possibly forget. 

Longtime Lewis fans will welcome back Detective Jamie Graff, who appears in Lewis’ standout books Spiral into Darkness and Caught in a Web. While Stolen Lives, the first in a trilogy, works well as a stand-alone, Lewis is becoming something of an auteur. Tribal culture, inter-agency investigative cooperation, adolescent bonding and even the presence of horses are fast becoming Lewis hallmarks that distinguish him from anyone else writing crime fiction today. And if Stolen Lives, Lewis’ hardest-hitting novel yet, is any indication, we can’t wait to see what’s next. 

From Literary Titan

Stolen Lives, by Joseph Lewis is a fast paced crime novel in the how-catch-‘em mystery genre. It’s the story of Officers Pete Kelliher and Summer Storm who have been trying to track down a group of pedophiles. Finally, a break comes when Native American teenager George Tokay witnesses the murder of a teenage boy in the desert, and reports it to the authorities. For years, Kelliher and Storm have unsuccessfully hunted the pedophiles who kidnapped, raped, tortured and killed young boys. Through years of stumbling blocks and dead ends, the officers now have a solid lead to pursue. With the knowledge Tokay shared, Kelliher and Storm must act aggressively to capture the perpetrators.

Author Joseph Lewis’s clear writing keeps the focus on the story among a highly detailed world and riveting mystery. His descriptions are sharp and focused, and he creates authentic heart-tugging sympathy for the victims. We get to know the offenders, but Lewis doesn’t focus his writing on the “bad guys.” Instead, he pulls the reader into the lives of the frightened teen-age boys, and what they must endure to survive. Lewis also creates a strong bond among the boys, with Brett being somewhat of a protector of them. 

This story reminds me of the popular and much-loved author, Tony Hillerman. Set in the desert of Albuquerque, New Mexico, like Hillerman, the Native American aspect, and imagery, is significant throughout the novel. However, Lewis thrives as an author by not only dealing with the emotions of these surviving boys, but also dealing with the flood of questions and emotions of the parents of the surviving boys.

Stolen Lives is a riveting murder mystery that slowly unravels a puzzling crime that will have readers furiously flipping pages. With realistic characters a reader can relate to and sympathize with, and a fast-paced and action filled plot, Lewis has created an engaging story that is a fantastic start to his Lives Trilogy.

Here is a Snippet from Stolen Lives, Book One of The Lives Trilogy. It is Chapter Two, because in a previous post, I already gave you Chapter One:

CHAPTER TWO

George Tokay sat among the pinion pine and Joshua trees on the side of the mountain after he had hidden his horse behind the ridge. He had heard the van even before it had appeared in the distance and had watched as it drove onto his grandfather’s land, suspecting rustlers. Because the land where his family’s sheep grazed was so remote, it happened often. Like his grandfather had taught him, George sat in shadow, the sun to his back. That way, anyone looking for him would be looking almost directly into the sun.

Shadow.

Hiding in the shadow fit, because Shadow was the name given to him during his coming of age ceremony two years ago when he was twelve up on the mesa where he and his grandfather honored Father Sun. This was a ritual they had done together every day since, rain or shine. It began in the dark of early morning and ended as the sun peaked over the rim of the mountains. He wasn’t singing now, though, and he wasn’t with his grandfather. He was as alone as the boy.

George felt pity for him, disgust for the men, and curiosity as to why anyone would want to strip a boy naked, handcuff him and execute him. He chewed on his lower lip and then stopped himself. His grandfather had often, too often, reminded him that one of the Dine’—one of the Navajo people—didn’t give away one’s thoughts with expressions on one’s face. Eyes shut, he held his breath, then let it out slowly and evenly, calming himself. Then he raised his binoculars, studying the scene again.

The fat man, with his back turned away from George and near the dead boy’s feet, pissed a puddle that was quickly swallowed up by the hot sand. George watched as the fat man shook himself, then zipped up and faced the dead boy, muttering something to the tall, skinny man with the beard.

George studied the fat man’s face. Thick lips. Broad, flat nose. Dark brown hair, slicked with something other than sweat, parted sloppily on the right side of his head. Big hands with thick, fat fingers. Too far away to tell the color of the fat man’s eyes. For sure, a biligaana, not interested in hozro.

George shifted over to the tall, skinny man with the scraggly black beard, bare in spots, thick in others. Not neat, but sloppy. Something about the beard hiding something? Hair, brown. Hands, small. Fingers, narrow. George watched as the skinny man pulled out another cigarette—Marlboro—and smoked, looking up into the hills, almost directly at George. With the cigarette clamped in his teeth, the skinny man pulled out his pecker and he too, pissed near the dead boy’s body.

George decided that, like the fat man, he was a biligaana. Maybe Hispanic. Neither of them knew or worried about the dead boy’s chindi, his spirit. They were both ignorant of the Way, of hozro, and his grandfather would be disgusted with them.

He flashed his binoculars back to the van and saw a third man, but because of the sunglasses and baseball cap, he couldn’t get a good look at him. In fact, George couldn’t tell if the man was particularly tall or short, slightly built or muscular, though his arms looked lean and tight. The hair under the baseball cap seemed long and dark, pulled back by the cap. George shook his head slightly in frustration, and then trained his binoculars back on the two men.

He watched both men discuss something while standing on either side of the dead boy, the fat man doing most of the listening. George shook his head, angry at how they defiled the boy, first pissing at the boy’s feet, then talking over him like they would over a kitchen table.

Finally, he watched them walk back, where all three men got into the van.

George studied the van. Chevy. Newer looking. Black or navy blue, probably stolen. His cousin, Leonard, worked out of the Tribal Police station at Window Rock and stolen cars with stolen plates were big crimes on the rez. So were murder, rape, rustling and everything else that went on in the world. His grandfather had lectured him that the Dine’ were losing their way and becoming more like the biligaana .

George didn’t move from his spot until the van had driven from sight, and just to be safe, George waited another twenty minutes before standing and stowing his binoculars in one of the saddlebags. He took out his canteen and drank warm water, wiping some across his face. Then he mounted Nochero, the big black stallion he had befriended two years previous, faced it down the hill and fingered the turquoise arrowhead around his neck.

A talisman to ward off evil.

And angry chindi.

Just to be safe, in case the talisman didn’t work, he pulled the .22 from the scabbard.

George stopped about twenty-five yards away, what he thought was a safe distance. Nochero, impatient to get moving again, stomped its front hoof into the sand, flicked its tail at flies, snorting softly. George patted the stallion’s neck and then dismounted.

He pulled off his boots and pulled out a pair of moccasins from his saddlebags. He sat down, pulled his socks off and shook sand from them before stuffing them into his boots. Then, after slipping into his moccasins, George stood up and faced the dead boy.

The Navajo boy of fourteen, who stood facing the death scene, was afraid of the dead boy’s chindi. But George reasoned that if he were to help find the dead boy’s killers and bring them to justice, the chindi would be satisfied and leave his family’s land. The worldly boy of fourteen, who wanted to join the tribal police like his cousin, was simply curious. He saw this as an opportunity to win respect and admiration from his family, and his grandfather, in particular.

However, George was Navajo first and foremost. In a loud, calm voice, as confidently and as friendly as he could manage, said, “I have come to help find your killers. I want to help you. What was done to you wasn’t right. I can only help if you allow me to come near. I bring you no harm.” He bent down and as he walked toward the boy, picked up dried sticks and several stones no bigger than his fist.

“I’m coming now.”

Taking care not to contaminate the crime scene, he stepped lightly, laying down the sticks and stones two yards away from the body, well away from where the two men had stood. He took the shirt off his back and tore it into narrow strips and stuffed all but one into his pockets. Then he picked up one stick and tied the strip of cloth in a knot like a kite tail and stuck the stick into the ground where the skinny man had stood, marking a footprint. He took another strip of cloth and stick, found the shell casings and marked them. Carefully, he moved to the other side of the boy, took another stick and strip of cloth and marked the fat man’s footprint.

Then George knelt down and studied the body. A fly danced on the boy’s shoulder, then onto the wound on his head. George waved his hand scaring the fly away temporarily, knowing that eventually, there would be nothing he could do. He touched the boy’s shoulder gently, as if in apology, then got up and finished marking footprints, the skinny man’s cigarette butts, and finally, the van’s tire tracks.

As he went to mark the footprints made by the man wearing the baseball cap, something caught his eye and he squatted down to study it closer. Between two tire prints, on the side of the van away from where George had sat watching the scene, he saw a dark spot on the sand. Careful not to touch or disturb it, he took one last stick and strip of cloth and marked it, thinking that it looked like blood. Knowing that if it was, there might be more in or on the van. At some point, the men must have hurt the boy before killing him.

At last, after marking every footprint and anything else of note, George knelt down at the boy’s body and touched the boy’s shoulder again.

“I will leave now, but I will be back with help. I will take care of you.”

George walked away slowly, reverently, got on Nochero, took one last look at the dead boy and rode off to call his cousin.

I hope you like it. I hope it perks your interest to check it out and then perhaps, the other books of the trilogy. In case you are interested, here is the book blurb and the link for it:

Book One of the Lives Trilogy, Stolen Lives:

Two thirteen-year-old boys are abducted off a safe suburban street. Kelliher and his team of FBI agents have 24 hours to find them or they’ll end up like all the others- dead! They have no leads, no clues, and nothing to go on. And the possibility exists that one of his team members might be involved. https://amzn.to/3oMo4qZ 

Stolen Lives, Book One of the Lives Trilogy by Joseph Lewis

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