Lives Laid Away 

Mysterious Book Report No. 373

by John Dwaine McKenna

Just about a year ago, an outstanding young wordsmith published his debut novel, August Snow, to great critical acclaim and a fistful of prestigious literary awards.  The author’s name is Stephen Mack Jones, and his writing style has been favorably compared to that of the legendary Raymond Chandler . . . a resemblance the MBR is happy to confirm.  The city is Detroit, in an area known as Mexicantown, and the narrator–protagonist private-eye is a tough as brass knuckles ex-cop and former USMC sniper named August Octavio Snow.  He’s a half African-American (his father) and half Mexican-American (his mother) guy who grew up in Detroit and followed in his dad’s footsteps to become a cop on the Detroit Police Department.  But there he uncovered corruption at the highest echelons and exposed it, which brought down the Chief of Police, several other high-ranking members of the police department, and the Mayor.  Then, after being drummed out of the DPD, he won a twelve million settlement for wrongful dismissal.  Now, he’s back in his second adventure.

Lives Laid Away, (SOHO Crime, $26.95, 296 pages, ISBN 978-1-61695-959-3) by Stephen Mack Jones, finds August Snow trying to live a quiet, simple life in the house he grew up in, in an area of Detroit called Mexicantown.  But when the body of a young, unidentified Hispanic woman dressed up as Marie Antoinette is pulled from the Detroit River, everything changes.  She leaped from the international bridge connecting the US and Canada, and her death is ruled a suicide.  That’s when August gets a call from his pal, Bobby Falconi, the Wayne County Coroner.  He tells Snow that the teenage girl was serially abused and appears to have been a victim of human trafficking.  But the DPD wants the case closed quickly, because other young, undocumented girls have been disappearing too.  It’s a story the authorities don’t want spread around, because ICE agents were making regular raids in Mexicantown, where they arrested persons who turned up dead a few weeks later.  Citizen or not, the residents of Mexicantown are terrified.  They turn to August Snow, who turns to vigilantism in a desperate bid for justice.  But justice is an elusive thing to achieve, and the hard-drinking, tough guy soon finds himself and his lifelong friend Tomás up to their necks in neo-Nazis, outlaw bikers, and gangstas of every stripe in this utterly hard-boiled tale of murder, race, mayhem and human trafficking that’s as scary as it gets.  This one’s for the true, crime fiction fan with a strong stomach.


John Dwaine McKenna