Heather Osborne – Trafficked Dreams
Independently published, available on Amazon paperback £9.99, ebook £2.99. I received a copy from the author for review purposes.
Heather Osborne, a California native now based in Scotland, writes in her acknowledgements: “Briana Ryu is a character I’ve had in development for some time, but had kept very close to my heart.” It’s obvious from all the personal touches and exploration of emotions that this is true, and watching Bri’s actions and reactions helps us keep turning the pages in a sometimes difficult story.
Bri, a San Francisco PD Inspector, is about to catch a train home after a long shift when she is approached by a child: “Help me… please.” Max was trafficked to the US from Ukraine with his sister, Lina, who is now missing. But as Bri takes him to her office and tries to establish some basic facts, her boss arrives, and Max bolts.
Six months later, Bri and partner Billy Trent are on a routine patrol, cruising the central part of the city, when they are called to a suspected homicide. The body dumped behind a school building is Max.
Between chapters of Bri and Trent working on the case are snippets narrated by Lina, who is still alive, though as she describes some of what is happening to her, it’s no surprise when she says she wishes she wasn’t.
A second body is found a few days later, a young woman – with the same missing teeth and fingertips seen on Max’s remains. FBI agent Robert Kastner is also at the scene, with information about how Max and Lina got into the US, and a cautious agreement is reached to work together – all three officers and the pathologist are keen to find the perpetrators after discovering more fully what the girl went through before she died.
The third body another few days on is a clear message – literally; a note is pinned to the man’s chest: “Stay away, Inspector Ryu.” However, the chances of Bri and Trent giving up on this case are nil, as we know, though there are dangers and difficulties still to face.
The ending is tough and emotional, but this is a subject that defies easy answers and cosy resolutions, so it’s right that Trafficked Dreams closes the way it does.
Human trafficking is not an easy subject to read about, and Osborne doesn’t flinch from showing some of the terrible things that happen to the victims. But Bri’s anger and determination, reflecting so much of the reader’s thoughts, carry us through the dark times. Osborne’s style is a little blunt and some things are telegraphed more obviously than they need to be, but for those who want a book that compassionately explores a difficult theme there’s plenty to like.
The strong chase thriller element within the police procedural template keeps the pages turning, and the lack of sub-plots means there is no downtime as the case moves forward. It’s a fast, no-nonsense read, which sometimes is exactly what is needed.