When gang warfare claims his cousin, Detective Wager seeks justice
There was a time in Denver when a child’s murder was a tragedy, but now that gangs have taken hold of the city, teenage deaths are sickeningly routine. As far as homicide detective Gabriel Wager can tell, the latest victim, a thirteen-year-old boy, was a good kid, with no affiliation to any local gang. But in gangland, even innocents have a way of becoming targets. As he investigates the boy’s murder, Wager’s aunt asks him to speak to her son Julio, a teenager who’s been cutting class and quit his after-school construction job. They fail to connect, and a few days later Julio is found executed in the same style as the previous boy, shot in the back of the head. As he tries to unravel the dual mystery, Wager finds himself deep in a callous world, where even children can be killers.
Latino cop Gabe Wager has a trigger temper and little tolerance for street scum. High on the Wager scum-o-meter would come gangs, drug dealers and kid killers, all three of which coalesce on the hard Denver streets in this high-powered tale. Gabe is asked to speak to his teenage cousin Julio, who's skipping school and getting weird phone calls and has extra money to spend. Gabe does talk to the boy, but, days later, Julio is gunned down on the street. Also dead is an older boy. He too has extra cash-and a missing notebook. The older kid was connected to a vicious drug dealer, and Julio had connections with a guy working a construction site close to Denver's infamous new airport. Burns blasts through the narrative but fails to assign his victims, or his bad guys enough memorable characteristics, so that it becomes hard to tell who's who. Maybe there's a subtle point being made about the temptations facing the urban disenfranchised, but the lack of individual color prevents the book from being viscerally gripping, even though the plot does move like lightning.