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IN THE GUISE OF MERCY
By Wendy Hornsby
Perseverance Press, 2009 ($14.95)
Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel
After a long absence, Maggie McGowen is back. I hope that Maggie and her LAPD detective, Mike Flynn, had some happy years in the meantime, because - no spoiler, it's on the back cover and in the first chapter - Mike's time has run out. He left his widow a special request: he wants her to solve the one unsolved case that had haunted him for a decade. Ten years ago, 16-year-old Jesus Ramon, a gang-banger and Mike's informant, got out of Mike's car in downtown Los Angeles near his aunt's taco stand, and vanished from the face of the earth. His aunt was found in an abandoned building, clinging to life after ingesting a massive dose of pure heroin, but Jesus was nowhere to be found, dead or alive. Maggie accepts the request, planning to make a documentary film at the same time. She has the support of many of Mike's law enforcement buddies, but others tell her to leave it alone. Does she? No, siree! She has some close scrapes along the way, people get hurt, people die, and some painful truths are unearthed.
Maggie takes to the gritty streets of the Los Angeles barrios with her long-time friend and photographer, Guido, does some ride-alongs with old friends in the LAPD, and interviews friends, relatives, and enemies of the missing boy. She sees the destruction drugs and the gang lifestyle brings to the users and their families. In this bleak world, she sometimes gets a glimpse of what the strength of the human spirit can survive, and how much good can come from simple human kindness. She also learns that people who may seem to be acting in the best interests of society can be corrupted in the process.
Maggie's life is really turned upside down. Mike is gone, the home, the sanctuary they built in the mountains, is invaded, her life is threatened, but she survives.
Ms. Hornsby has completed the next book in the series and is working on the fourth. It will be interesting to see how Maggie will cope with all the changes, how she will rebuild her life after all she has lost. I have a feeling she will be just fine. Welcome back, Maggie!
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