A single mother in graduate school puts aside her research on Brooklyn to learn more about why a local girl has been beaten.
Erica Donato (Brooklyn Graves, 2014, etc.) gets entangled in yet another mystery tied to Brooklyn culture when Savanna, a girl working at the library she’s researching, is found beaten and unconscious. Though she’s determined to see Brownsville as it is today while studying its history of high crime and poverty, Erica never expected to become part of its story. Learning more about Savanna, though, Erica finds that she once attended school with the girl’s mother and thus feels the need to reach out and offer support during this troubling time. Erica’s teenage daughter, Chris, who’s apparently a plot device to help her mother without having any needs of her own, suggests that Erica learn more about Savanna’s friends in order to figure out who might have reason to harm her. In doing so, Erica meets the dim but sweet Deandra, the friend to whom Savanna entrusted secrets. Before she can share anything that cracks the case, Deandra goes missing, leaving Erica even more at sea than when she started. Luckily, Erica has a lot on her plate as she learns more and more about the gentrification of Brownsville from former residents who have their own secrets, though they don’t appear to relate to the main storyline. An afterword explaining the author’s use of “street slang” may pacify readers who haven’t already been put off by the rough language throughout the tale.
The lack of resolution or care in wrapping up the mystery makes it clear that Stein’s interests lie elsewhere, perhaps in informing readers about the borough’s history. The threads of old Brooklyn, modern menace, and Erica’s own life never quite come together.