A new social worker worries her colleagues may be murdering child abusers in Wirth’s (Day of the Dead, 2017, etc.) thriller.
Recent college graduate Jennifer Reilly is excited for her first field assignment after three months working at Child Protective Services. She initially works closely with Kelly “K-Bond” Bond, a highly regarded child-abuse investigator. Jennifer soon befriends other colleagues who deal with cases of child abuse, like Detective Diane Gill of the Riverside Police Department. The group meets at a local bar for drinks and discussions about the most appalling cases. Gill suggests calling themselves the Karma Klub after abusive parents—from a case the detective investigated—turn up as victims of torture with injuries similar to their maltreated infant. An apparent avenger is targeting others as well, some just out of prison and many who don’t survive the encounter. Jennifer is content with her new career and her doting boyfriend, Joe Carpenter. But she’s shaken by the discovery of evidence that seemingly implicates someone she works with. And it’s quite possibly more than one colleague because the killer isn’t working alone. Searching for the culprit(s) with Joe’s help, Jennifer may not like what she finds. Wirth handles the story’s grave subject matter respectfully. Characters, for example, are unmistakably affected by their experiences and care about what happens to the kids. There are likewise various forms of abuse, from physical to neglect, and different outcomes for CPS investigations (one leads to a loving, abuse-free household). But while Jennifer eyes quite a number of suspects, most readers, privy to more details than the protagonist, won’t have trouble naming a killer. Still, it’s a delight watching Jennifer investigate; she furtively peruses desks at CPS and even has to duck and crawl away when someone unexpectedly arrives. The prose doesn’t linger on violent imagery, though it’s abundantly clear what’s taken place, whether it involves children or culpable parents.
Somber but absorbing tale, thanks to a likable protagonist and fully imagined setting.