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Marvin Mason, author
Joshua Easton and Christian Buckman are two best friends going into their senior year of college who embark upon a road trip to help Joshua's cousin, Tina, move from a college dorm to an off-campus locale. Having been friends since the second grade, they know each other’s secrets. For Christian, it is an illness he has tried to hide, specifically from Joshua's cousin who he ditched on prom night. This is Christian's first face off with her since that fateful night four years ago. For Joshua, it is a domestic abuse situation between his parents that may call for him to take desperate measures. After Christian and Tina finally patch up their relationship, the two young men hit the road back home for a five-hour ride down the Interstate late at night where eight young Black men have recently disappeared. Will they make it back home or will they join the missing?
In this novella combining mystery and social issues, Mason (The Curse of Black Hawk’s Treasure) draws readers into a suspense-filled journey with childhood friends Christian Buckman and Joshua Easton, as they embark on a short road trip that results in deadly chaos. Home from college on summer break, Christian is ecstatic when he’s invited by Joshua to tag along on a trip to Iowa, where the boys plan to visit Joshua’s cousin Tina—who just happens to be Christian’s ex-girlfriend. As the two set out on their travels, they unknowingly become entwined in a mysterious killer’s web and also tangled up in the off-the-books investigation of narcotics detective Patricia Rice.

Mason jumpstarts this fast-paced thriller with an action-packed prologue, cleverly foreshadowing later events while hooking readers from the first page. The dynamics, and long-term friendship, between Christian and Joshua prove central to the overall plot: Christian is diabetic, reserved, and cautious, while Joshua tends to be confrontational and more of a risk taker. That said, the small, romantic subplot between Christian and Tina never really takes off, landing this novel squarely within the thriller realm. Detective Rice comes on board later in the storyline, the chapters from her point-of-view increasing the stakes and quickly ratcheting up the mystery.

Mason excels at writing a plot that weaves resonant racial and social issues—such as the Black Lives Matter movement—into the suspense. Christian and Joshua must navigate real-world racism along the life-or-death stakes of thrillers, and while diehard mystery aficionados may see the ending coming, there is ample tension to hold readers’ attention right up to the climax. Mason’s realistic, in-depth characters steal the spotlight when he deftly uses their differences to highlight the strength in their bonds. Readers will quickly become engrossed in this tale of a road trip gone to hell.

Takeaway: Childhood friends on a road trip find themselves caught up in fast-paced suspense in this thriller laced with resonant social issues.

Great for fans of: Victor LaValle’s The Devil in Silver, Ian K. Smith’s Wolf Point.

Production grades
Cover: B
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: B
Marketing copy: A