Lives Laid Away
PublisherSoho Press
Date Published10 January 2019
Price£ 22.99

Lives Laid Away

by Stephen Mack Jones

Detroit ex-cop August Snow is unimpressed by government action to combat the sexual exploitation and traffic of girls and so takes matters into his own hands.


August Snow was introduced in the book of that name, in which the Detroit policeman was fired and then was awarded $12 million dollars for wrongful dismissal. He has been liberal with the money in his neighbourhood of Mexicantown, using part of it to renovate nearby properties to provide employment and accommodation for worthy recipients.
Many of his friends are of Mexican descent, some with no rights to remain in the US despite the fact they have lived there for many years. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are universally hated for their heavy-handed approach. A worrying recent development is the disappearance of girls taken into ICE custody only to be found dead thereafter, showing indications of drug and sexual abuse.
Snow becomes involved when he is asked by the county coroner to help identify one such girl pulled out of the Detroit River, and identified by his activist friend Elena as a local teenager. Snow has friends in the DPD and the FBI, but nobody seems willing to take the action required, so Snow starts pushing.
He is another version of the US black minority hero, a man who takes care of his neighbours in the face of a system which cannot be relied upon for justice. Like Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins and Joe Ide’s IQ, he has built a network based on mutual co-operation and respect, and provides a service that fills the gaps in what the police can or will do.
It seems to be a facet of these characters that they number amongst their acquaintance people with special skills, and Snow is no exception. Here he has the resources of a young computer-whizz by the name of Lucy Three Rivers (from another minority background), various resourceful women of the ‘hood, and Tomas, a man of impressive size and with a substantial arsenal.
It has to be said that there is a good deal of killing and an enthusiasm for guns that tends to make the kind of action depicted here more popular on the other side of the pond. Of course the bad guys richly deserve shooting, and most of the time Snow gives them a fair chance, but the body count does rise rather alarmingly.
One aspect that gives the book its particular flavour is the frequent reference to particular parts of the city or other parts of Michigan, the food they like to eat, and the way life is viewed in Detroit. Viewed from outside it is easy to forget that the US is a big place and that each urban area has its own special characteristics.

Reviewed 11 May 2019 by Chris Roberts