I am pleased to say I received another 5 Star Review for Stolen Lives, Book One of the Lives Trilogy. This time, it comes from Diane Donovan, Senior Reviewer for Midwest Book Review and California Bookwatch, and Owner of Donovan Literary Services. She writes:
Stolen Lives represents an exciting probe of abduction and unusual connections between fourteen-year-old victims, and is recommended reading for thriller and intrigue fans who enjoy stories that focus as much on rescuers and victims as it does on the perps.
Kelliher and his team of FBI agents face multiple challenges in a series of events that have remained unresolved for years. Witnesses tend to be murdered before they can provide further clues, and the four young victims’ lives themselves prove mercurial and hard to trace or fathom.
At this point, it should be mentioned that this book is first in a projected trilogy. Readers who look for complex stories of murder, kidnapping, and ongoing investigations will be satisfied by a tale that introduces the setting, but holds the power to attract and remain unresolved over multiple scenarios and books.
Navajo boy George Tokay may hold the clue that has eluded Kelliher and his people for years. The only problem is—George has no idea what this special knowledge is. All he knows is that he’s witnessed a puzzling execution. And he feels compelled to join forces with the investigators to resolve this case: “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.”
From family relationships and Navajo ways to Jamie Graff, a policeman working with the FBI who makes new inroads to discovery, only to unearth more puzzles surrounding the kidnappings and police relationships, Joseph Lewis builds a compelling tale filled with satisfying twists and turns.
As the boys struggle to survive and the police attempt to find answers and hope in a seemingly impossible situation, readers are treated to a scenario firmly rooted in the author’s research into child abduction and real-world events that translate well to thought-provoking fictional milieus.
Human trafficking and murder are difficult issues to tackle, yet Lewis does so with astute social, psychological, and investigative insights that keep his story realistic, involving, and unpredictable.
Even though Stolen Lives is part of a trilogy, it ends on a satisfyingly complete note, which makes it highly recommended as a stand-alone story for readers who typically eschew series titles.
Collections strong in social issues, mystery and intrigue, and novels of survival tactics will find Stolen Lives a fine addition.
I have great news . . . Stolen Lives is available on NetGalley for you to read (and hopefully, write a review). Here is the information you need to access it:
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Lastly, I want to give you a snippet to wet your curiosity. Here is Chapter Three from Stolen Lives.
Every now and then, Brett heard one or more of the boys weeping out of despair or loneliness. He could tell by the proximity or the voice who it was. He tried to shut his ears to it, but nothing he did could drown it out.
Everything came down to survival and Brett knew it. So did the other eleven boys.
He sat in the middle of the bed in a pair of stained beige-colored boxers with his chin resting on his knees, his arms wrapped around his legs. He had just had his fourth date of the day and he knew he might have two or three more by dinner time and probably two or three more before he fell asleep that evening.
He never really slept though. Sleep was a rare commodity and if it ever arrived, it was fitful and in snatches. It had been this way for the twenty-two months, two weeks and four days since he had been dragged off his bike and thrown into a van while on his way to meet some friends for a pick-up basketball game at his middle school.
Brett had learned to close off all emotions after the third week or so in captivity. He was unreadable and that was one way how he and the other boys survived. The only thing he couldn’t control was the pure, unadulterated hate emanating from his large brown eyes. None of the guards or dates could read him. Only three other boys knew him well enough to guess at his feelings because they, like Brett and the rest of the boys felt the same things: disgust, anger and hate, along with the sense that somehow, some way, they needed to survive.
Neither he nor the other eleven boys betrayed any feeling, any emotion and they did what they needed to do to survive.
Though he hadn’t been in them all, from what the Brett could tell, all of the rooms were basically the same: concrete gray walls with chipped and faded green linoleum, windows that had been sealed shut with thick plywood and covered with steel bars. There was a cheap nightstand that had a box of tissues and a container of antiseptic hand wipes. A small garbage can sat on the floor near the bed. Each room had a beat up stuffed chair that matched neither the bed nor nightstand. In Brett’s room, the chair teetered back and forth because one leg was an inch or so shorter than the others. Its cushion had white stuffing leaking out of a tear in the back.
The boys were about the same age. All were locked in separate rooms that contained a lumpy double bed with faded sheets of a non-descript color that was either light green, faded yellow or tan. Perhaps the sheets and pillow cases had just been washed so many times the color had been faded to nothing distinguishable. The sheets and pillow cases were supposed to be washed every week, but that didn’t happen. Brett couldn’t remember the last time he had clean sheets. As a consequence, they smelled of cheap cologne, and of something deeper, darker. They had a greasy, slick feel to them.
Yet, Brett tuned it all out.
Used to it.
Brett’s room, third on the left from the door and across from the glass control room, had been his from the time he had first arrived. All meals, if you could call items from the various fast food menus meals, were brought to him. He left his room only to shower and use the toilet.
Brett tuned it all out, including the date he was with, no matter what the date did to him.
Brett wasn’t there.
Instead, Brett imagined himself on the track sprinting the 100 meter or the 200 meter, almost always winning because that was what had happened in almost all his races. He pictured himself on the basketball court playing with his traveling AAU team. Before he was kidnapped, he was the starting point guard, playing tough defense or setting up the offense. Before he was dragged off his bike, he played football for his middle school as a starter at halfback and free safety. He’d imagine himself on the football field taking the pitch from his friend Austin Hemple and racing around the right side dodging a defensive end or linebacker, eluding a cornerback or safety on his way to the end zone.
In any case, Brett didn’t operate in the present. He was absent, away, in another place and time, knowing that this was the only way he was able to survive. He had coached the other boys to do the same.
He had never imagined himself living this kind of life. He had never imagined that this sort of life had even existed. It certainly wasn’t anything he had wanted to do- ever. So he and the other boys learned to channel all of their hate and all of their disgust onto the men and guards. It was the only way they were going to survive.
He and the boys couldn’t say no, couldn’t resist and couldn’t even hesitate. To resist meant being taught a lesson in front of the other boys. They had to learn this lesson because their life depended on it: don’t resist, don’t say no, and don’t hesitate.
He and the rest of the boys suspected they were in Chicago because every now and then, the guards would complain about the Bears, the Bulls, the White Sox or the Cubs.
Fuck the Bears.
From the time he was little, Brett had been told that he looked like a miniature Tom Brady. He had a compact, solid build neither short nor tall with the same intense eyes, but brown, and without the real Tom Brady’s cleft chin. But being from Indianapolis, he was a rabid fan of the Colts and Brett knew for certain that Peyton Manning was the best quarterback in the NFL. Tom Brady couldn’t touch him. So in his mind, any comparison to Tom Brady, even if he did look like him, was an insult.
And he really didn’t give a shit about the Bears or Bulls.
Each boy was cute, bright, and each boy was a decent athlete. Brett excelled in track, football, and basketball. Tim, in basketball and baseball. Johnny, football and baseball. Patrick, basketball and soccer. The other boys were similar that way.
Even in captivity, there were leaders among the boys. Tim and Johnny led with kind words and gentleness, while Brett led with his actions. He had taken on the role of nurse, checking a boy for this pain or that malady. He was a listener who encouraged the boys to do sit-ups and pushups to keep themselves fit and as a way to fight boredom. But even with the sit-ups and pushups, the boys grew skinny.
Brett understood that boredom and loneliness were very real enemies. Long hours in solitary confinement with no one to talk to drove him crazy, so he did algebra problems in his head or tried to remember passages of books that he had read, but he’d reinvent the characters and the endings.
After almost two years in captivity, Brett had wondered if his parents and younger brother were still looking for him or if they had given up and forgotten him. Besides dying alone in captivity, this was his biggest fear and he tried to shove those thoughts out of his mind as quickly as they would arrive. But arrive they would. Quietly, silently like fog on a landscape: not there one minute, then suddenly filling the landscape like a thin white woolen blanket leaving Brett cold instead of comforted.
The boys had their own code used to communicate with each other that Brett and Tim had devised. A serious of clicks, gestures, even simple looks and slight nods were used to communicate. Their code included names the boys gave the men and guards.
Sometimes, the boys were given gifts. Brett took the gift, but never accepted the gift. To accept the gift was to somehow accept that what was happening to him was okay, was all right.
But nothing about what had happened since his kidnapping was okay or all right. It was all very wrong and not okay at all.
So he took the candy from Hershey, giving a quarter piece to Tim, a quarter piece to Johnny and half of it to Patrick, one of the youngest of the boys and also one of the newest, only in captivity for six months. He took a cheeseburger from Burger Man but gave half to Johnny and half to Patrick. Though hunger gnawed at his insides, he had never taken anything for himself.
Recently, Brett and Tim had speculated in quiet whispers while in line for the morning shower that one of the boys was going to go away. It happened every month or so, usually when a boy had been sick for a while. Sometimes it happened when a boy got older. Johnny and Ryan had been sick for a while and neither of them had been having as many dates as the rest. Johnny had been held captive the longest, but Tim had been captive almost as long as Johnny. Because Johnny was his friend, Brett gave him whatever food or candy he could, encouraging him to drink a lot of water, to get better.
They had to keep each other safe. They had to help each other survive.
It was all about survival until they could get help or escape. Brett didn’t know how, but he knew that somehow, some way, they needed to survive until help arrived.
Whenever that might be.
I hope the chapter got you curious. You can find it on NetGalley by going through the steps above, or you can purchase it using the link below.
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