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HAILEY’S WAR by Jodi Compton: Book Review

She’s an ex-West Point cadet and a current bike messenger doing a favor for an old friend that takes her across the border–Hailey Cain’s life is a complicated one. Jodi Compton has made an excellent start in what reads like a new mystery series.

Hailey Cain is a young woman with secrets and baggage.  One secret is why Hailey left West Point two months before she would have graduated; we don’t find that out until the last chapter of the novel.  One piece of baggage is that, through no fault of hers, a year earlier she ran over and killed the young son of a former gang leader; the young boy dropped his nanny’s hand and ran out into the street.  She tries to see the parents and extend her sympathies, but they won’t see her.  Her cousin CJ suggests that she may be the victim of the boy’s father’s revenge and that she should get out of town, so she moves to San Francisco and gets a job as a bike messenger.

Hailey’s tough, but she goes to the Golden Gate bridge at least a couple of times a week trying to persuade would-be jumpers to have breakfast with her and wait at least one more day before ending their lives.  So maybe she’s not so tough after all.

Hailey is approached by a high school friend, the leader of a girls’ gang, whom she hasn’t seen in years.  Serena asks her to drive a young friend to rural Mexico to be with her ill grandmother.  It’s a strange request, given that the girl has family members who could take her, but Hailey’s persuaded to take the job.  On the second day of the trip, Hailey and Nidia are carjacked; Hailey is beaten and left on the side of the road, and when she recovers consciousness Nidia is gone.

There’s a lot of interesting information about Latino gangs, both male and female, in California as Hailey is drawn into that life to find out more about Nidia’s disappearance.  It’s obvious that Hailey wasn’t told the truth about the reason for Nidia’s return to Mexico.  She blames herself for the girl’s disappearance, although there wasn’t anything she could have done to prevent it.  But that doesn’t stop her from digging more deeply into Nidia’s story.

There’s a Mafia component to the story too, which further complicates Hailey’s efforts to protect Nidia.  And there’s a betrayal at the end that shows Hailey that sometimes even the people who have no reason to be disloyal, can be.

Hailey’s War is a fine first novel, and I look forward to Jodi Compton’s second one.

You can read more about Jodi Compton at her web site.

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