Lives Laid Away (August Snow #2), by Stephen Mack Jones

Eight stars

Having enjoyed the series debut, I am back with the next novel by Stephen Mack Jones, set on the rough streets of Detroit. Again combining a police procedural with gritty racial struggles, this book will resonate with those who keep an open mind about the depiction of the darkest inner city living. August Snow is still trying to keep the streets of Mexicantown safe, flipping houses and protecting those about whom he cares. When whispers of an ICE presence stirs up a frenzy in town, Snow is the first to go looking for answers. However, he is waylaid when a former colleague provides him with some disturbing information. A young Hispanic woman, dressed as Marie Antoinette, appears to have leapt off a bridge to her death. Snow is not entirely convinced of the suicide angle, but everything about this stinks to high heaven, particularly when it becomes apparent that she was an illegal alien. Snow is invited to a secret meeting, where he discovers that there is a rogue ICE group scooping up illegals and placing them into the sex slave trade. No one seems entirely sure who’s behind this, but Snow is not about to wait for answers. Using some of the grit and determination he gathered when he was with the police, Snow begins his own investigation, forced to work with the authorities, even when he is not all that interested. Things trace back to a white supremacist gang, though no one is willing to share much of anything, save a beat down for Snow. When a second woman turns up dead, also in a costume, Snow realises that he will have to act fast to save Mexicantown and its citizens. Without knowing who he can trust and with many lurking in the shadows, Snow will have to be vigilant if he wants to live through this ordeal. A powerful follow-up novel that keeps the reader in the middle of the socio-economic and political struggles of the city, while also working through a horrific set of crimes and a world so depraved that even August Snow is shocked. Recommended to those who want a darker novel that holds nothing back when it comes to racial disparity, as well as the reader who enjoys a gritty protagonist.

While I struggled to connect on some level with the debut novel, this book was much more to my liking. Stephen Mack Jones masterfully builds a story with his no holds barred style, seeking to reveal racial and socio-economic disparity while placing it directly in front of the reader. The August Snow backstory is not as prevalent this time around, but random mentions left me wanting to know more about this unique man. There is a great deal of character development in this piece, which has me eager to see how the series will progress. Snow will do almost anything for his Mexicantown neighbours, including defend them from the likes of ICE and their random rules. Snow’s passion comes from a dedicated family life, but also being willing to push back against those who seek to oppress. With his intuitiveness, Snow is eager to make a difference and thrives to help those in need, even if they cannot speak for themselves. There are some recurring characters that added interesting flavours to both novels, as well as new faces, all of whom complement the work that Snow does. The vast array of characters and unique goings-on offer the reader a thoroughly entertaining piece that does not stop until the final reveal. The novel is well-paced and reveals much about the immigration struggles in America, paired with the racial divide that no one pretends to hide. There is also a blunt discussion about the sex slave trade and how the weakest links in society become the easiest targets. Jones has a way of making his point effectively, keeping the reader attuned to the struggles of all in some of the less than desirable parts of Detroit. While I was on the fence about how I felt about the series before starting this book, I am sold now and cannot wait for the next piece. I can only hope that Jones never loses the grit that makes this book stand out from many in a supersaturated genre.

Kudos, Mr. Jones, for an interesting take within the genre. I cannot wait to see what else you have to say!

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