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AND GRANT YOU PEACE by Kate Flora: Book Review

Portland, Maine police detective Joe Burgess is feeling his age.  It’s not simply the long hours and his belief that the cops can never catch up with the criminals, it’s his new-found family responsibilities and his awareness of the racial and religious tensions that are evident since people from Somalia and the Sudan have moved into the city.

As Joe is sitting in his police car, enjoying a brief moment of quiet, a young boy runs up to the car shouting, “Fire at the mosque and someone’s in there.”  Joe rushes to the building and finds, by breaking into a locked closet, a teenage girl holding an infant.  With the help of a bystander, Joe is able to get the girl and baby out of the building alive, but the baby dies by the time he arrives at the hospital.

When Joe goes to the house of the mosque’s leader, Imam Muhamud Ibrahim, he is surprised by the lack of interest shown by the clergyman and his followers about the fire.  Although Joe understands that the violent political history of Somalia has made these immigrants fearful and distrustful of the police, he is still taken aback by the lack of cooperation he’s receiving.  No one will admit to knowing anything about the girl and the infant.

Maine’s overall population is 95 percent white, 85 percent white in Portland.  The influx of African refugees, mainly from the Sudan and Somalia, has brought racial and cultural tensions to a high point.   As with other earlier immigrant groups, the Sudanese and Somalis have brought tribal ties and tribal conflicts with them, and their manner of dress and worship mark them as culturally different from the majority of Mainers.  None of this is helping Joe or his fellow officers find out who is behind the mosque’s fire. 

The girl in the hospital is not Somali or Sudanese, although it looks as if the baby she was holding was part African.  The girl has not spoken a word since she was rescued from the fire, and it is obvious that she is terrified of something or someone.  That she has reason to be is made clear when an attempt is made to abduct her from her hospital room.

In this, the fourth novel in the Joe Burgess series, Kate Flora has portrayed her protagonist and his colleagues in a state of flux.  Joe is not the only one with family/personal issues that are intruding on his police performance.   Stan Perry is even more argumentative than usual, possibly because his girlfriend has just announced that she is pregnant, unnerving news for a man who has no desire to be a father.   Terry Kyle is trying to balance his work schedule with being the sole caregiver for his children and fearful that any misstep might mean that his mentally ill ex-wife could get custody.

Kate Flora has written a deeply moving mystery of a police force and a city as a whole grappling with newcomers from a very different place.  The characters are extremely well-written, realistic and believable, and the plot rings all too true in today’s complex world.

You can read more about Kate Flora at this web site.

 Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site