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RAGGEDYLAND by Paul J. Heald: Book Review

Auction Hunters and Storage Wars are two very popular shows that have been on television in recent years.  In such programs people bid, sight unseen, for the contents of storage lockers or units, hoping to find valuables that were left behind when the renters no longer paid the fee to keep their items safe and private.

James Murphy is a Georgia-based journalist and a bit of a gambler, so it’s quite logical that he puts in a bid on the show Shocker Locker, hoping to make his investment pay off.  However, what James finds when he opens the locker is definitely more of a shock than he expected.

Inside, along with a profusion of other items, is a magazine titled Spartacus, featuring disturbing photos of men and small boys in compromising sexual positions.  James calls his former lover, Melanie Wilkerson, a federal prosecutor with whom he worked on a previous case, and she agrees to contact the FBI, as the sexual exploitation of children is a federal crime.

James and Melanie contact Stanley Hopkins, a friend and college professor of sociology whose area of specialty is the sex industry, its victims, and its perpetrators.  Stanley lends his expertise to the search to find the former owner of the locker, but in the meantime he meets Amy, a teenage girl who has flown cross-country from North Carolina to California to rekindle a brief romance with a fellow student she met at a Duke University summer school class.

When she discovers that the interest was definitely more on her side than his, Amy knows no one else in California to turn to other than Stanley.  And through a series of complicated events, the two of them begin a trip from Stanley’s home to Georgia to work with James and Melanie on locating the man whose locker began the story.

The story has its roots in Georgia, moves to California, returns to Georgia, moves to England, and goes back to Georgia for its finale.  A high school principal, the preacher of a fundamentalist church, his son, and the man who had rented the storage locker all come under the scrutiny of James, Melanie, and Stanley, as they discover that the photos are but the tip of the iceberg in an even more disturbing story.

Paul J. Heald has written a terrific mystery, a strong story laced with humor and humanity.  Raggedyland is the third novel in the Clarkeston Chronicle series, and I have downloaded the first two–Courting Death and Cotton:  A Novel, and can’t wait to begin reading.

In addition to writing novels, Mr. Heald is a professor at the University of Illinois School of Law, specializing in copyright law and intellectual property.  You can read more about the author at various sites on the web.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden Oldies, Past Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.


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