Anne Bonny #BookReview In The Hush Of The night by @RaymondBenson 5* #AmericanNoir #CrimeFiction #Thriller #NewRelease @skyhorsepub ‘an insight into the seedy, sleazy and lucrative world of human trafficking and sexual slavery’

In The Hush Of The Night by Raymond Benson
Review copy

From the New York Times bestselling author comes a gritty, riveting tale of modern crime, featuring a female FBI agent embroiled in a Russian human trafficking case.

Chicago Special Agent Annie Marino examines the case of a dead young woman who possesses a tattoo Annie has come across before—that of bloody bear claws. Several deceased women with the tattoo have turned up over the past few years, all suspected of being involved in a vast human trafficking operation.

Annie’s neighborhood friend, Jason Ward, is a young writer engaged to be married into an upper-class family from a posh Chicago suburb. Jason believes his future brother-in-law, a war veteran, is definitely a bully—but does he also have ties to the Russian mob?

Yana Kravec, a woman from St. Petersburg, Russia, has been fraudulently lured into a trafficking scheme and thrown into a horrid and seemingly hopeless situation. She is, however, determined to fight back and escape her captors.

Annie’s investigation eventually uncovers a sordid plot of procuring slaves overseas and marketing them in the US. Her interests soon coincide with those of Jason and Yana, bringing the trio together to fight against a deadly network of criminals. As the separate lives of these characters collide, their paths ultimately converge in a night of terror and survival in a Michigan forest, where they become the prey of evil men who will stop at nothing to protect their secrets.

My Review:

This novel is exceptionally dark and focuses mostly around human trafficking and the modern-day sex slavery trade. So be warned, it is not for those who are easily offended by scenes of violence against women. That being said, it is incredibly factually accurate. The author has researched the statistics and plight of such women, before he has tackled such a hard-hitting issue. For that I fully applaud him.

You may guess the beginning, middle and the end early on. I know I did. But that wasn’t what the story was about for me. For me, it was about two things, firstly bearing witness to the victims and the violence and degradation they endure. Which in turn would highlight how to spot signs of abuse/oppression. Secondly, it was about how government bodies seek to take down and dismantle the trafficking networks.
It delivers on both accounts, massively!

In the opening scenes we meet 20yr old Yana Kravec. Yana is a beautiful young woman in the prime of her life. She lives in St Petersburg and longs for a life outside of Russia. When she meets Nikolai Babikov. . .

‘The world was about to change for Yana Kravec. Everything would be better in America’

Sold a dream of a better life in the US, Yana Is trafficked across the country and straight into the arms of sexual sadists.

Annie Marino is a Chicago special agent within the civil right department. She deals with a wide-range of cases regarding abuses of civil-rights, from the relatively minor to the case that has plagued her entire career. The ‘Bear Claws’ case.
Annie receives a call from Detroit special agent Harrid Caruthers regarding another body, another victim bearing the tattoo of bear claws.

The victim is found inside the trunk of a vehicle, with the driver having crashed after consuming too much alcohol. The driver, Vladimir Markov is dead and can offer no insight or clues. The female victim show clear signs of sexual violence and possible torture. The police believe Markov was either disposing of her corpse or moving her from one location to another.

We then learn more about the background of the case. The previous victims and why Annie is determined to get justice for the innocent women caught up in modern-day slavery. We also meet Annie’s friend/neighbour Jason.
Jason is quite the unique character himself, he is completely different to anyone else in the entire novel. He is a young graduate, dreaming of being a writer, he longs for a bohemian lifestyle. He is due to be married into the Paley family. A local family of considerable wealth and reputation. His fiancé Natalia absolutely dotes on Jason. But there is something about her family Jason, just can’t get past.

Annie attend the post mortem for the recent victim found in the trunk of the car. It is here we learn the true extent of her injuries and suffering prior to her death. The team track down Markov’s ex-wife, but she hasn’t seen him for 2yrs. Since he left her dirt poor, choosing a life of strip joints and alcohol. The links to the strip clubs throws up a clue to the case.
Are the strip clubs tied into the trafficking network? If so which ones? And how?

The novel then reflects back, via alternative chapters, to Yana. We witness her journey to the US and what happens the moment she arrives. It does not make for pleasant reading at all. I spent the entire time, cringing in horror. But it is the reality for these young women, trafficked all over the globe.

‘The psychological damage that trafficking inflicted on a victim was, in a way, often worse than the physical torment’

Yana arrives in the US.
‘From now on, you are the property of The bear. You will obey orders. You will do whatever we say. If you try to escape, we will kill you’ – Bobby

When a young runaway teen, makes a vague phone call to her mother in Memphis. With her location being in Chicago, the team are able to assemble a rescue mission, that might not only rescue this young woman, but others out there trapped in the living nightmare too.

‘Her spirit was broken. She had nothing to live or. It was hopeless. She would never escape’ – Yana

The novel doesn’t just focus upon the victim’s it also focuses on the man that buy into this ‘trade’. There is on specific case, where as it unfolds, you can imagine the shocked family saying “they never suspected” or “he never seemed they type”. What is the type? What type of man abuses women? If this was so easy to categorise, the cases would be far easier to solve.

‘It was the ultimate humiliation, to be branded as someone’s property’

The novel is without a doubt a shocking thriller. It offers an insight into the seedy, sleazy and lucrative world of human trafficking and sexual slavery. How it operates and most importantly, what the police can do to save victims. 5*
Don’t read late at night, alone!

Raymond Benson

My Review of, The Secrets On Chicory Lane also by Raymond Benson


Anne Bonny #BookReview The Secrets On Chicory Lane by @RaymondBenson 5* Genius @skyhorsepub #CrimeFiction #AmericanNoir #DeathRow

The Secrets Of Chicory Lane by Raymond Benson

Sixty-one-year-old Shelby Truman, a romance novelist, has received a request to visit her childhood friend, Eddie, who is on Death Row. Though mentally ill, Eddie is scheduled to be executed for the disturbing, brutal murders of his wife and unborn child.

As Shelby travels home to Texas for the unnerving reunion, she steps back into memories of her past, recalling her five-decade-long relationship with Eddie in order to understand what led the beautiful but troubled boy who lived across the street to become a murderer. Shelby and Eddie used to visit an abandoned fallout shelter in his backyard, their “secret hiding place” where they could escape Eddie’s abusive father, enjoy innocent playtime, and, later, adolescent explorations. As they grow increasingly close, a tragedy occurs one July fourth, an event that sets in motion a lifelong struggle against an Evil—with a capital “E”—that has corrupted their all-American neighborhood.

With only a few days left for Eddie to live, Shelby braces herself for a reunion that promises to shed light on the traumatic events that transpired on her street, changing everything Shelby thought she knew about the boy on Chicory Lane.

My Review:

This novel lost me hours of sleep! I became engrossed in Shelby and Eddie’s past. Which resulted in not getting to sleep until 4am, which is quite a stretch even for me!
The story is just so brilliantly written, that you can’t finish one chapter without reading the next three and so on and so forth.
When I did eventually finish the novel, I was wide awake and consumed by the intricate storyline and what I had just discovered about Eddie.

*If you are going to read this novel, I would advise picking a morning hour. Especially if you value your sleep.

The synopsis is very intriguing and straight away I wanted to learn about Shelby as a writer and as Eddies childhood best friend. I was desperate to unravel Eddie’s past and couldn’t read the pages quick enough.
What I read, was one of the most powerful novels!
This novel was my 75th book of the year so far and the 8th on my list of favourites of 2018. It really is THAT good!

The opening offers a glimpse into the world of a bestselling author and I loved that the protagonist Shelby was a writer by profession. She receives a letter via overnight mail from Limite, Texas. She knows from the envelope that it is from Eddie’s attorney Robert Crane Esq. She is instantly curious as to where this will lead. She has not seen Eddie in 20yrs and her previous attempts to help with his court case, were declined.

‘The thing is, I’ve always thought about Eddie. We go way, way back, to when we were children living in Limite’

Now here is where the novel hooked me! Eddie is an incarnated inmate on death row. He is imprisoned for a violent and heinous crime. A crime Shelby KNOWS, he committed. Shelby comes across as a rational, educated and mentally sound woman. So why does she care? What friendship from the past, could tie you to such a person?
I didn’t find this novel to be of any form a psychological thriller and by that, I mean that I never thought Shelby was misleading me or leading me into a huge twist.

‘Why the hell does Eddie want to talk to me?’

We learn that Eddie’s lawyer has exhausted all attempts to appeal and that Eddie is scheduled to be executed, in just four days. Shelby is actually already pre-arranged to be in the area for a park dedication. She agrees to meet with Eddie prior to his execution. So, begins an emotional rollercoaster of a journey.

As Shelby makes her way to the town of Limite, is also where she internally recalls her childhood with Eddie. This becomes the narration for the novel. It is beautifully written but is also haunting. After I finished the novel, I felt emotionally drained and will admit I shed a little tear.

Shelby narrates her story on Chicory Lane and what took place in the summer of 1966. A summer Shelby would come to learn the true depths of human pain and the parental blame game.

‘I truly believe that evil – with a capital “E” – visited my neighbourhood that summer of 1966. It slithered inside at least three houses that I know of, and set about destroying lives and delivering misery’

The unique bond and life long connection between Eddie and Shelby is played out over various eras. The 60s, 70s and 90s all add depth to the story. The social and moral ‘norms’ are relevant to the theme and plot. At times the innocence of childhood is beautiful to read. But the vulnerability to abuse both physical and psychological lingers over the children’s path into adulthood. This may have a ‘coming of age’ feel at times, but it takes a very dark turn. . .

‘We all knew that Eddie was guilty of murdering the woman he was living with at the time’

The nature of Eddies crime is horrifying. This is not a crime of passion or an accident. But when you begin to understand Eddie as a child, adolescent and young man. You see that there were early warning signs of a broken mind. During the trial Eddie is hailed as ‘Evil Eddie’ in the headlines. This is a town that has demonised, the once ostracised little boy. At the time of the murder Eddie is thought to have been off his meds. During the sentencing at court Eddie curses the jury with a satanic spell.
This is NOT your average case!

Eddies lawyer reports that Eddie has always refused medical and psychiatric help from staff within death row. That he suffers from depression and anxiety and has retreated into his own world. Shelby organises a potential 4hr visit. But will Eddie talk to her? Will what he says make any sense, after years of solitary confinement?

We learn that as a child Eddie was cute, introverted and a keen art student. He is regarded as ‘weird’ by his peers and his only friend in the world is Shelby. Their young friendship blossoms into childhood love. I began to wonder if this was the only love Eddie had ever truly known? Did Shelby’s eventually rejection push him over the edge. What lead Eddie to commit the crime that shocked the world. . .

‘Evil Eddie made a statement for all the world to see’

Eddie grew into an eccentric young man. An outcast, a bad boy and a school dropout. Eventually he signs up to a career in the military, where he is swiftly sent to Vietnam. The relationship between Shelby and Eddie is on and off throughout the years. In one sense she watches Eddie struggle more and more with each growing year. She believes his service in Vietnam was a tipping point.

‘The experience pushed him further into darkness, and he came home a changed young man’

Despite the struggles Eddie has faced, with his family, friendships and social quirks. Shelby still insists the answers lay within Eddies psychology.

‘Eddie could not have been in his right mind when it happened’

Eddies mother was sickly during his childhood, his father was a bully and would regularly beat Eddie for minor infractions. The only person to show Eddie kindness in the neighbourhood, other than Shelby was Mr Alpine. Eddie would often venture to his residence alone. Mr Alpine is thought of as a local celebrity to the kids, as his brother is the towns major.
What I wanted to know was why does Shelby refer to him as a monster?

After the death of Shelby’s brother. Shelby is blamed by her mother who struggles with alcohol and prescription drug abuse all Shelby’s adult life. Suddenly both of them find their fundamental relationships flawed. What does this mean for their future.

‘In many ways, both our mothers were similarly damaged’

The novel has some strong themes of mental illness. But it also covers the other various social situations that contribute to a decline in one’s own sanity. Imagine being the most hated and talked about resident on your street. Imagine every neighbour knowing your past, and the fact that your own father couldn’t stand the sight of you. Being mocked and ridiculed by the local children and knowing that no one truly cares.
Except Shelby Truman.

A powerful novel of childhood trauma seeping into an adult’s psychology. Shelby’s patience and understanding towards Eddie is true kindness and unconditional love. I wish more people in society, thought a little more like Shelby, than adapt a bullying/shunning culture labelling a person a weirdo and invalidating their life experiences.
Tremendously moving. 5* Genius

Raymond Benson