In Hojraj’s (Beguiling Dreams, 2015) second novel, a group of miscreant teenagers band together to exact revenge on an abuser of children.
The novel opens with a local man’s harrowing abduction and then, in subsequent chapters, fills in the motive of the people behind the crime. The main characters are four newly minted high school graduates—Achilles, Johnny, Jared, and Gabriel—who don’t seem enthusiastic about their futures in the bleak (and ironically named) New York suburban town of Great Hope in 1983. As they ponder their next steps as adults, Gabriel, the quartet’s natural leader, recruits them all in a pact to kill a local pedophile—the now-elderly Jack Winter, who once abused Gabriel’s brother Danny and then tried to lure Gabriel into his trap. Vivid flashback sequences show Gabriel as a child of divorce, living with a deformed left hand; he’s still processing the emotional pain of a family tragedy but emotionally anchored by his gang of misfits. Hojraj meticulously builds out his intriguing narrative with other characters’ backstories, including the psychiatrically unstable Jared and Johnny, who ignore their parents and often get high on marijuana. In the present, Achilles is about to endure leukemia treatments, and Gabriel pursues a budding romantic relationship with an Indian girl named Priti, who also hides a painful past. Hojraj also skillfully unveils the kidnapping and murder plot as well as its aftermath years later, when the main characters are adults in 2008. The author brings his dynamic characters to life in the very first chapter, and they remain entertaining to the end. The compelling, smoothly told story culminates in a surprising conclusion.
Crafty, enticing fiction incorporating engaging themes of friendship and conspiracy.