By Judith Yates Borger
A 2009 trade paper release
From Nodin Press
Skeeter Hughes is a reporter for a newspaper in a medium-sized Midwestern city. She’s also married and the mother of two teenaged daughters. She’s the surprisingly naïve general assignment reporter and protagonist for this scary and realistic crime novel. The plot concerns prostitution trafficking out of the Mall of America. Men are hitting on vulnerable young girls and gradually tempting them into situations that lead to drugs and sex for money.
It’s every thoughtful parent’s nightmare and it’s real. The author is in fact the model for Skeeter Hughes and her experiences as a reporter run parallel to the plot. But, as Borger notes in her preface, this is fiction, although she certainly doesn’t write in a vacuum. Chasing a story about a missing teen—the Billie of the title—Hughes stumbles on a much darker and wider tale that involves some heavy players.
Generally the story is well-written , tight, moving at an appropriate pace. The characters, and there are many, are almost all well-drawn and realistic. The dialogue is snappy and sensible and the physical environment accurate.
I wish my version had been more carefully edited. There are too many instances of missing words and phrases. On the other hand, the author writes a pretty tight style that is literate and not wasteful. If a few of the characters seem too cliché-like, well, clichés develop out of reality. I wanted Skeeter to be a little wiser and more protective of her own safety. I wanted her to at least consider the several potential issues around using her own daughter as a source of information and given the dangers involved, I thought Skeeter likely to be seriously maimed if not killed, given her penchant for jumping into dangerous situations. Even so, I liked the character and I like this novel.
In the spirit of disclosure, I note that I have a professional relationship with the author.