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A body is found in a reservoir fifty miles north of New York City. The victim is young, female and Hispanic. In her purse, the police find a photograph of a baby they believe is her daughter–a little girl they can’t identify. Or find. Where is the child? Is she still alive? And what is the meaning behind the disturbing note in the woman’s bag? “Go back to your country. You don’t belong here.”
Arriving at the scene is homicide detective Jimmy Vega, who spent the better part of his childhood in the area and still carries the scars. A Latino himself, Vega knows all too well how hard it can be for an outsider to fit into a close-knit place like Lake Holly. Even now, as a respected officer of the law, he has to watch his step in an investigation simmering with ethnic animosities and steeped in local gossip. Both challenged and intrigued by Adele Figueroa–a passionate defender of immigrants’ rights who reminds him uncomfortably of his own family’s struggles–Vega must rethink everything he believes to uncover long-buried truths about his community, his loved ones . . . and himself.
Filled with drama, mystery and raw emotions, Land of Careful Shadows shines a nuanced and timely light on a small town’s darkest secrets and deepest obsessions. It is not only a tour de force of literary suspense, but an intimate journey into the human heart.
Land of Careful Shadows by Suzanne Chazin is a wonderful, introspective,suspenseful novel. The book focuses on a murder investigation and follows Jimmy Vega who is the lead detective on the case. However, this is not just another police procedural. The book tackles very heavy themes of racism and immigrants. There are a number of incidents that highlight on these issues. In addition, there are also characters who bring the issue alive through the narration of their own stories.
I found it interesting that the book started off with the protagonist being racially profiled by another cop. It emerges that the detective is Latino and also has to deal with racial stereotypes. Through the book, he flashes back to his own teenage years and the racism that he faced. The first murder victim is also Latino. The murder investigation is hindered by many secrets which make it hard to crack the mystery. Everyone seems to have something to hide hence making a number of people seem like possible suspects.
As I have already mentioned, the narrative is just not about the investigation but also the immigrants. In this case, it highlights on the plight of the undocumented immigrants in the community. This also adds another perspective to the story because despite being a Latino himself, the detectives faces opposition from the Latino community .Many of them are undocumented and do not trust Vega.
This book is timely especially with the issue of immigrants making news headlines worldwide. The narration is wonderful and it was easy to get lost in the story. I have been really struggling with police procedural of late because details of the investigation seem to lose me along the way. This is probably why it took me a while to get to this book. Nevertheless, this ended up being a different kind of book. The stories of the immigrants changed the whole experience for me. It became an emotional read as I empathized with the plight of immigrants. It made me think about all the people who cross borders to just a chance at a better life. I have heard of the desperation, hopes and dreams. It is sad to read about their pain and struggles due to reception that they receive.
I do appreciate the author’s writing style and ability to tackle the issue of immigrants without turning this book into a political narrative. I learned so much about immigrants and this opened my eyes on how they are treated whether or not they are documented. Rodrigo’s story was heartbreaking. His struggles in a foreign country where he had to struggle to make ends meet and at the same time still struggle to gain acceptance painted a somber picture of the hardships that immigrants go through. I found myself sympathizing with him so much that at some point, I didn’t like protagonist, Vega much.I also liked the narration style. The multiple points of view added different perspectives to the story but it was still easy to follow the narrative which was sequential.
I recommend Land of Careful Shadows by Suzzane Chazin to all fans of police procedural. If you are looking for a rich narrative with well developed characters and an engrossing plot-line then this one is also for you. Lastly, if you want to get a perspective on the life of immigrants then this book is also for you. It definitely is a wonderful, different kind of police procedural that will leave you thinking about the characters and events long after the last page.
My appreciation goes to Kensington Books who provided me with a copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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