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    Review of THE DARK STREETS by John Shannon (see the Jack Liffey homepage)


    Pegasus Books, January 2007

    Jack Liffey doen't get Korean clients very often, but when an eighteen-year-old Korean girl goes missing, Jack is hired to bring her home. Liffey has his rules--he doesn't bring anyone home to abuse--but he normally gets the job done. Only something goes very wrong with this job almost from the beginning. The girl, Soon-Lin Kim had been involved in protests against a Los Angeles development that would, she thought, eliminate housing for a number of older people. To add insult to injury, the company behind the development was a Korean conglomerate that had once been involved in supplying Korean 'comfort women' (forced prostitutes) to the Japanese armies of World War II. At least one of the residents was a former comfort woman.

    While Liffey looks for a missing girl, his own daughter, only a year or so younger than Soon-Lin, is having a crisis of her own. Her hormones are running strong and she's attracted to the gang member who lives next door to Liffey. Liffey is too busy to see Maeve's danger signs and when his girlfriend urges him to talk to his daughter, he accepts her assurance that all is well.

    As Liffey investigates, he falls into the post-9/11 world where a single word from someone can lead to being disappeared.

    Author John Shannon (see more reviews of novels by Shannon) writes compellingly of the multiple cultures whose uneasy mingling makes up the culture of Los Angeles. Mexican gangs, first and second generation Koreans, and cops who sometimes seem to form a gang of their own fill the pages. Jack Liffey himself is a memorable character. Although he projects an air of cynicism, it's clear that he still hopes to make a difference--if not to the world at large, at least for those young people whom he rescues.

    THE DARK STREETS is an uncomfortable book. In one scene, Gloria views a blackboard with the words 'THE SECRET TO COMBATING GANGS IS...' and 'CLICHE OF WEEK HERE.' That blackboard thematically captures the novel. From both the right and left, violent men attempt to apply simple solutions to complex problems--and Jack Liffey becomes the target for both.

    John Shannon writes a complex and compelling mystery, where the past never seems quiet and where the future can be changed only in small steps. This is good stuff.

    Four Stars

    Reviewed 9/01/07

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