In his 18th appearance, Doc Ford (Deep Shadow, 2010, etc.) and…er...Joan of Arc contend with villainy on behalf of a beset 21st-century teenager.
Tula Choimha—13, and as innocent as she is courageous—has traveled to Florida from a remote mountain village in Guatamala. In search of her mother, what she finds instead is a kind of double-dyed jeopardy. Harris Squires and his girlfriend Frankie Manchon, who run the Red Citrus Mobile Home Park, and who take Tula into virtual captivity, are unabashed, black-hearted no-goods. Squires, a steroid-driven physical giant, is a drug dealer and a white-slaver, but he pales when compared to Frankie, a pernicious compound of Lucretia Borgia, Lizzie Borden and uncut malice. Neither of them see innocence as anything worth preserving, a view soon to be shared by a variety of other would-be exploiters. Still, Tula is not without friends. For starters, there’s Joan of Arc. Though she died in 1431, the Maid of Orleans is in it almost nonstop, offering voice-activated contact with Tula in her time of trouble. Not only does Joan function as patron saint—someone who can be prayed to or called on for guidance in a general way—she is energetically hands-on. “Hurry,” she tells her young charge when the need arises for a counter-move to forestall Frankie in an act of wickedness, "The woman's coming. Do it now!” Doc Ford, marine biologist extraordinaire, who over the course of his 18 novels has rescued enough females in distress to populate several leagues of their own, is another Tula supporter, supplying muscle and derring-do on demand. And then finally, perhaps most notably, there is in Tula’s corner a converted monster—a case of repentant savagery tamed and redeemed by the Maid of Guatemala’s indomitable goodness.
Much of the enjoyment depends on the reader's reaction to the idea of a really, really proactive saint.