#BlogTour: The Missing Witness by Allison Brennan

For this blog tour, we’re looking at an all too real story of homelessness and corruption set in a *just* fictional LA. For this blog tour, we’re looking at The Missing Witness by Allison Brennan.

Here’s what I had to say on the review sites (Hardcover.app, TheStoryGraph, BookHype, Goodreads):

All Too Real. Despite what some may claim about the problems of the Homeless Industrial Complex not existing in the real world, When We Walk By by Kevin Adler and Donald Burnes – released just 10 weeks or so before the publication of this book and so far as I can see, never read by Brennan as she was doing her research for this book – shows all too well just how much these kinds of things actually do exist.

Now, as with all *fictional* tales, Brennan has clearly taken a *few* liberties – no one is making any claims about the “real” world LA here, ultimately this is truly a fictional tale set in an alternate world very similar yet not completely identical to our own. Though the corruption in this particular version of LA and the multiple murders being investigated through the course of this book tied to that corruption… eh, I’m sure the citizens of that LA were wishing they had a particular dude styling himself after a small flying rodent whipping around their town.

Instead, they get Kara Quinn. And let’s face it, with her “irregular” investigative methods and keen detective abilities… Kara Quinn may at minimum prove she could be a reliable partner for that other dude. Here, her skills are both throttled at times and allowed to bloom into their full wonder at other times, all while the other members of the team she works with – Matt Costa’s FBI unit – each prove to be equally capable supporting members in their own ways.

Ultimately this is truly a fictional crime thriller, and Brennan as usual shows just how great she is at weaving tales that are clearly fictional, yet all too real. Does she get a touch preachy at times? Perhaps for some, though it was never truly heavy handed enough for me to deduct a star over or truly even mention here other than this very “your mileage may vary” kind of statement. The rest of the action is well paced, the mystery is complex with quite a few moving parts, and just when you think you may have everything figured out… well, it turns out you probably don’t know quite *everything*.

It will be interesting to see where Brennan takes this series next, assuming she does, given how this particular tale ends – and I very much look forward to finding out what may be next. Very much recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt from the book followed by the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
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#BookReview: When We Walk By by Kevin F. Adler and Donald W. Burnes

Elite Sociology Types Explain Homelessness. In a spirit of full disclosure up front, I’m a guy that literally has “Real Is Real” – the subheading of Part III of Ayn Rand’s magnum opus Atlas Shrugged – tattooed on his wrist, along with a few other tattoos of various Christian thinking, both common (Triune God) and more obscure (Christ’s death redefines religious laws). And yet I’ve also presented at a sociological association’s conference, over 20 years ago while still in college. With that noted, let’s get into my thoughts on this book, shall we? 🙂

Coming into this review moments after reading this book, I wasn’t going to rate it 5*. There is quite a bit of rampant elitism and racism here, from forgetting just how horrid public housing has proven to be to openly advocating for several explicitly racist programs such as Affirmative Action and reparations. And yet, while admittedly deep into the text… the authors own up to their racism and elitism, unlike so many other books in this space. So there went that potential star deduction. And I was thinking that the book was only about 16% documentation, and it actually ended with about 18%. While still *slightly* lower than the more normal 20-30% I’m accustomed to seeing in these types of books, even I have noted in at least one or two reviews over the last few weeks that given how many more recent books are coming in somewhere in the teens, I may need to revise my expected average downward a few points – which would put this 18% within that newly revised range, almost assuredly. Thus, there went that potential star deduction.

So what I’m left with is an idealistic book that bounces between firmly grounded in reality in showing the full breadth and scope of how so many people come to a state of homlessness and how and why so many programs built to “combat” or “end” homelessness fail and even actively harm the people they claim to he trying to help to being truly pie in the sky, never going to happen “solutions” such as Universal Basic Income. And yet, here again, some of the solutions proposed – such as tiny house villages and container box conversion homes – are ideas that I myself have even proposed.

Admittedly, I chose to read this book this week because of the ongoing struggles in Gastonia, NC, where the City Council is currently threatening to entirely shut down a local church because of its efforts to serve the local homeless population, efforts brought to media attention by the efforts of Libertarian activist (and rumored potential 2024 Presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party) Spike Cohen. Unfortunately, I’ve seen myself over years of even casually watching the issue that the current events in Gastonia are simply far too common – which is one of the things this text gets quite right in covering while never really going in depth with any specifics. Even down to also addressing, again at a high level, the all too common practice of hostile design.

At the end of the day, there are very clear differences in how the authors here and I approach this (and likely many) issue, and I suspect that will be true of many who read this book as well. But if you’re interested in the issue of homelessness at all, if you’re truly interested in trying to help end this problem, if you’re searching for something you can personally do to help, if you’re looking for ideas to work at any level to assist… you should read this book. It really is quite a solid primer, despite the authors’ clear bents, and at minimum it will help you avoid pitfalls that are far too common even among those with quite a bit of experience working within these communities. Very much recommended.

This review of When We Walk By by Kevin F. Adler and Donald W. Burnes was originally written on June 23, 2023.

#BookReview: Those Who Wander by Vivian Ho

“Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost” … But Some Are. Ho does an excellent job of focusing on one particular tale – of a trio of homeless kids in the Bay Area convicted of a pair of murders – while exploring young adult homelessness generally quite well. Maybe it was because the version I read was the Audible, but there didn’t seem to be many citations throughout the book, and indeed Ho waxes poetic and goes into editorial mode quite often – a bit too much, for my own personal tastes, particularly when making various claims that really do need supporting evidence to be provided. (Checking the text based version of the book I also have, I do in fact see that the notes/ bibliography is a bit too sparse for my thinking.) Which is ultimately what dropped this a star for me. Other than the sparse bibliography and a too much editorializing, this truly was a beautifully written book that highlights an oft-overlooked circumstance and does a stupendous job showing these people as the humans they are – warts and all. Very much recommended.

This review of Those Who Wander by Vivian Ho was originally written on March 25, 2020.

Featured New Release Of The Week: Good Man, Dalton by Karen McQuestion

This week, we are looking at an intriguing examination of social media, reality television, and homelessness… all within the confines of a literally laugh out loud romantic comedy. This week, we are looking at Good Man, Dalton by Karen McQuestion.

Structurally, this book is intriguing because while it uses the split chapter approach so common in romance novels these days, it doesn’t actually have the couple meet up until just over 50% into the book. Instead, the first half of the book focuses on the individual arcs of the lead couple, and it is here that the book is perhaps its most moving.

Greta is a young college graduate who gets an internship with her second cousin’s prestigious New York City mega-company. She only knows her cousin through the family Christmas cards and the cousin’s perfectly fabulous social media channels, and she is awestruck. But when she gets a peek behind the curtains… McQuestion begins to show the reality of “reality television” that many of us have long suspected. Dalton is heading to New York City on a two week experiment of what it means to be homeless. He has carefully planned this excursion so that he has no easy access to the comforts and privileges he has enjoyed his entire life, and when he actually gets there and begins learning on the street, he finds that even many of the theories he has learned in college at even the graduate level are… in reality not always as the textbooks claim. Here again, McQuestion embarks on an intriguing examination of just what it means to be homeless in America circa 2020 ish, along with some intriguing ideas for approaches that may actually work.

At just before the halfway point, Greta and Dalton see each other for just a few seconds… and instantly realize there is some connection with this stranger on the other side of the glass. Just after the halfway point, their lives intersect again and they remain around each other through the end of the book. It is in this section of the book that it becomes perhaps its most hilarious, if a bit more “standard” in story. But even here, McQuestion plays with the questions of reality and living up to expectations.

Overall this is a remarkable work that is elevated by both McQuestion’s talent as a writer and the storytelling decisions she made. Both serve to take what could have been just another run of the mill New York City based romantic comedy and make it something that could stick with the reader for quite a while, in a way I’ve only ever seen done once in all the books I’ve ever read as it relates to homelessness in particular – Creston Mapes‘ 2007 work Nobody.

This is quite possibly the best book I’ve read so far in 2019, and I look forward to seeing what Ms. McQuestion has in store for us next.

As always, we end with the Goodreads/ Amazon review:
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