Stolen Lives (Danny Sanchez #2), by Matthew Pritchard

Seven stars

After recently completing Matthew Pritchard’s series debut, I was left underwhelmed. I vowed to give this second book a try to see if it had that missing piece, some form of momentum. Danny Sanchez is back, steno pad in hand. He’s come to the local landfill to cover the story of a body discovered in the piles of refuse. There is a missing woman who fits the loose description and in a community where flashy news is scarce, this is sure to make some waves. Sanchez begins poking around into the life of Teresa del Hoyo, who has been anything but a model citizen in this strongly-Catholic community. A wild child in her youth, Teresa joined the Reds (communists) and has been speaking out against the Church ever since. As Sanchez takes some time to connect with his own mother, he learns a little more about the Spanish Civil War, remembering stories about its divisiveness and the destruction by the Franco nationalists. When a local cemetery begins having its headstones destroyed, Sanchez draws parallels to Teresa del Hoyo’s personal campaign to reveal something that has been covered up for too long. He discovers that the graves are all of babies born in a local clinic, many who were stillborn. The mystery only thickens from there, as it would seem that Teresa’s killer may have ties to a sect of the Catholic Church established to root out those whose message is anything but laudatory. However, the more Sanchez discovers, the more he reveals in print, making him a potential target. Could he know enough that his silence is the only way to stop the questions? Pritchard does well to drum up some interesting historic themes, though I am still not entirely convinced. Readers should give at least one of the two books a try and decide for themselves. They can serve as standalone works, making either a decent test subject.

The premise for this novel was as strong as the debut piece, with well-developed writing, but I felt the delivery was again lacking something. Danny Sanchez remains an interesting character the reader can enjoy, particularly as he shows a little more grit and journalistic determination. While he appears to be hot on the trail of the victim’s backstory and how it might tie into a mysterious killer, Sanchez proves somewhat lacking in his presence throughout the chapters of the book. Pritchard does tip his hand and offer a little Sanchez family history while discussing Spain’s move into a fascist state after the Second World War, though I would have liked more. Danny Sanchez needs more depth and while some could argue the book was too short to offer it, I ask, why not take the time? Others in the story helps push the plot lines along well, from Spain’s political history, strong Catholic connection, and the role the Church played in indoctrinating young people at a fragile time. While there were shortfalls, Pritchard’s writing did leave me wanting to know more about some of the historical aspects, which is definitely a plus. Pritchard story idea was sound and I suspect there will be many who love it completely. I am not sure if I want to take the Danny Sanchez experience one novel further, but I may return to complete the series to date in 2019. For now, I will let those who love the book offer their own forms of praise.

Kudos, Mr. Pritchard, for another decent attempt. I’ll wait and see if I am moved to read more, but I am sure others have helped create a strong fan base.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: