Sunday, August 18, 2019

Stolen Things

Stolen Things by R. H. Herron
Penguin Random House: 8/20/19
eBook review copy; 368 pages
ISBN-13: 9781524744908

Stolen Things by R. H. Herron is a so-so debut conspiracy thriller.

Ex-cop Laurie Ahmadi is currently a 911 dispatcher in San Bernal, California, who is working when her sixteen-year-old daughter Jojo calls her. Jojo doesn't know where she is at, but she is obviously drugged, disoriented and in pain. Laurie tracks her through her phone and dispatches help immediately. Then both Laurie and her husband, Omid, the police chief, rush to the scene. Jojo is at the home of pro football player Kevin Leeds. Leeds is an activist with the Citizens Against Police Brutality movement. He is arrested, but has no idea why Jojo would be in his home or why there is a body in his closet.
Jojo has been sexually assaulted and drugged.  She also has no idea where her best friend, Harper, is. The two were together the night before. Now Jojo is recovering from something she doesn't remember, Harper is missing, and Laurie must use all her wits to try and figure out what happened after Omid has a heart attack at the hospital. When Harper's phone is found in Jojo's possession, they look into her messages and also look at her social media accounts to try and figure out who she has been associating with and where she could possibly be. It soon becomes clear that they can trust no one, including the police department that has long been like a family to them. With Omid recovering, Laurie must figure out what is happening on her own.

Laurie and Jojo are well-developed characters and Herron does a good job capturing the mother-daughter relationship. Jojo needs her mother and knows she will come, but she also get exasperated with her like any other teenager. She has also kept her renewed friendship with Harper, as well as other things, a secret. Both of her parents knew Harper wasn't a good influence on Jojo, but they would never wish her harm.
Herron uses present day headlines to frame the action in her novel and goes bold and all-encompassing in the narrative bringing into the plot police brutality, activism, racism, rape, murder, mental health, and LGBTQ rights. In the end no one is is what they seem to be. Everyone is hiding secrets. While Stolen Things is definitely a thriller, it does come with an overriding and overbearing social message with an agenda that veers into a lecturing tone. Pulling plot points from breaking headlines is great, but in this case it ended up distracting from an otherwise page-turning thriller. Sometimes you are better served picking and choosing what will best serve your plot.
Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House.

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