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by Melissa Scrivner Love
Crown, March 2017
321 pages
ISBN: 0451496108

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Lola has become the leader of the Crenshaw Six by being the most ruthless and smartest member of her Hispanic gang in South Central LA. Right off, she tells us about killing the previous leader, her boyfriend, two years earlier. She has a devoted pit bull named Valentine, whom she stole from a fighting ring, and her gang does not sell to kids, or old folks unless the are in pain. Enuf said?

She also has a baby brother in her gang, Hector, who has issues with respect. And just as the novel begins, she finds herself caring for a neglected and some times abandoned five-year-old girl named Lucy. Lucy is used by her crack-addicted mother as an enticement to drug dealers, just as Lola’s mother had used her.

So here is a young woman, both hardened by her experiences and protective as her pit bull of a little girl and her own mother, whom she both hates and feels a deep sense of responsibility to.

If this does not scare you off, you will fall in love with Lola, her gang, her kid and her dog. They are all up against terrible odds, both a Mexican cartel that is drooling to torture and kill her, and some white dudes who are hardly less vicious.

The cartel has demanded that the Crenshaw Six find and destroy their rivals in 48 hours or Lola will die a long, slow, painful death. As she and her gang begin to unravel who is who, Lola is forced to kill several more people, not even the worst guys, but it is all about following the gang code and maintaining respect. As a woman, Lola has to be extra careful about respect, as women do not lead gangs in South Central, something that sometimes works in her favor, but more often does not.

While trying to keep little Lucy out of all this trouble, Lucy herself manages to get in the middle of it and she has an uncanny ability to become an extremely helpful sidekick to Lola. Even Lola’s mother comes to her aid in a pinch.

There are a number of guys in LOLA, but none of them are as interesting as the women. Even Lola’s rival, Kim, who is trying to steal Garcia, Lola’s boyfriend, offers an intriguing twist to the plot. So does Andrea Dennison Whitely, a public prosecutor whom Lola can finally respect as an equal, at least as ruthless, powerful and intelligent as she is.

The freshness of LOLA resides in the fact that the novel is full of women who are actors, who take their fate in their own hands. They may not be angels; after all this is the world of Noir Fiction. But LOLA is a world where women make all the decisions, commit most of the crimes, and solve all the mysteries, even the five-year-olds.

I could not put LOLA down, and neither will you. And Love is working on a sequel!

§ Susan Hoover is a playwright, independent producer and retired college English teacher. She lives in Nova Scotia.

Reviewed by Susan Hoover, April 2017

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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