Stolen Things by R. H. Herron
Penguin Random House: 8/20/19
eBook review copy; 368 pages
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
Sometimes you are better served picking and choosing what will best serve your plot.
My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House.