In The Hush Of The Night by Raymond Benson
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.
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!
My Review of, The Secrets On Chicory Lane also by Raymond Benson