James Gault reviews Trafficked! by Thomas Burns
Natalie McMasters is a young, hard-drinking, foul-mouthed, cynical, lesbian private detective and you’ll love her. She is a twenty-first century female version of the ‘private eyes’ you can find among the works of the 1940s’ greats like Micky Spillane, Dashiell Hammet and Raymond Chandler.
Coming back from recovering from the results of a previous adventure, ‘Nattie’ finds her wife, an illegal immigrant, has abandoned her, having fled from the attentions of the US Immigration Service. The story follow her to the cesspits of New York as she tries to find her. It’s a tale of violence, abuse, and corruption, but also a story of love and loyalty. The pace is frenetic, it bounces along at 100 miles an hour and the twists and turns of the plot keeps you engrossed right to the end - a tour de force of storytelling.
It’s an engrossing detective mystery with great characters, I can’t envisage any lover of the genre not enjoying it. But there is some extra depth to it.
As the title suggests, the main theme of the story is human trafficking, but the author casts his social consciousness far wider, with frequent little by-the-way comments on city poverty, the treatment of veterans and the US immigration policy. But the overriding theme is the role of women in modern society.
So is it a candidate for the accolade of a ‘feminist’ novel? With a strong, feisty principle character it would certainly seem so, but there are undertones of machismo. The author surrounds the heroine with a protective cocoon of tough ex-marines, ready to come to her rescue whenever needed. Her previously confirmed sexuality is challenged by her relation with her male ‘sidekick’. You get the impression that the author has a grip on the ambiguity of the gender issue. He respects the power of women but appreciates they are different from the male species. I wonder what feminist activists, with their black and white insistence on equality, make of the novel.
Not that feminist approval matters that much. This is, I would say, a boy’s book. The sex and violence are very explicit, and although romance has its part to play, I’m not sure the majority of women would agree that it’s compassion for women as victims would be adequate compensation for the condescending male tone that, for me, permeates the novel.
So what’s my recommendation? Guys, don’t miss it! Babes, give it a try. If the author gets up your nose, he’s still around so you can get to him on his Facebook page.