A review by Piet Bach
In the last few years, P. A. Brown has written a number of books set in Los Angeles, giving readers a clear insight into the workings of the Los Angeles Police Department in various situations. I previously reviewed her L. A. Boneyard, one in a series featuring gay LAPD Detective David Laine, published by MLR Press in 2009. Laine makes a brief appearance in the current work, but the starring role at the PD is taken by Officer Alejandro Cerveras, who is starting his career saddled with a snarling homophobe on the cusp of retirement as his patrol partner. Their beat is Cypress Park, the Northeast barrio fallen to gangs, poverty and drugs where Gabriel Aguila is trying to hold the remains of his family together after his mother’s death. The two meet when Cerveras responds to the 911 call for yet another drive-by shooting. The electricity of attraction between them is a shock to both, but particularly to Gabriel, who is struggling with so many issues that the last thing he needs or wants is to come face to face with what his family and his Church see as a deeply unforgivable sin.
Ms. Brown handles the linguistic code-switching employed by ghetto residents with a sure ear, giving us fully developed characters struggling on multiple fronts as the focus of their lives narrows around them. Gabe’s stubbornness in the face of loss, his bravado and sense of privacy, and above all his defiance of circumstances as he tries to juggle community college, part-time work, and family obligation combine to make him a sympathetic character even when his actions seem irrational; and Alejandro’s steady, relentless pursuit of his own goals, his enlistment of his family as he battles for Gabe’s heart, and his clear-eyed support for Gabe give us a romantic hero well worth overcoming the grit and glare of the environment. The writing is propulsive, intercutting scenes with dramatic economy and engrossing us in the action. As violent as this story is, there is nothing gratuitous, no cheap sentiment, no easy effect employed in conveying the two protagonists’ slow resolution of their inner conflicts – the telling has been pared to its bittersweet essentials.
Another highly recommended work from one of the most talented pens in the suspense/mystery world. I would give it five full stars if AmberQuill’s editing had been as careful as Ms. Brown deserves; she was better served at her previous publisher, MLR Press.
Four and a half stars
Latin Boyz, P. A. Brown, 331 pp., Amber Quill Press, 2012
Order direct from www.AmberQuill.com —
ISBN-13: 978-1-61124-256-0 (E-book) $8 // ISBN-13: 978-1-61124-924-8 (Paperback) $14.50