Officer Ryan Quinn, a rookie raised in a family of cops, is on the fast track to detective until he shoots an unarmed black male. Now, with his career, reputation and freedom on the line, he embarks on a quest for redemption that forces him to confront his fears and biases and choose between conscience or silence.
Jade Wakefield is an emotionally damaged college student living in one of Philadelphia’s worst neighborhoods. She knows the chances of getting an indictment against the cop who killed her brother are slim. When she learns there’s more to the story than the official police account, Jade is determined, even desperate, to find out what really happened. She plans to get revenge by any means necessary.
Kelly Randolph, who returns to Philadelphia broke and broken after abandoning his family ten years earlier, seeks forgiveness while mourning the death of his son. But after he’s thrust into the spotlight as the face of the protest movement, his disavowed criminal past resurfaces and threatens to derail the family’s pursuit of justice.
Ryan, Jade, and Kelly–three people from different worlds—are on a collision course after the shooting, as their lives interconnect and then spiral into chaos.
In his sophomore novel, Clark’s protagonist Ryan Quinn proclaims “I’m not a murderer. I’m not a murderer. I’m. Not. A. Murderer. It’s a great hook and a promise that this novel won’t leave you sagging in the middle. And it doesn’t. Ryan, a rookie in Philly has killed an unarmed black male. He was on a patrol with his partner, Sgt. Greg Byrnes. It was Byrnes who pulled the young man over–he likes to do that. Sometimes for no reason–other than their color.
Author Clark doesn’t blanch when he tackles an extremely sensitive subject. Ripped from the headlines, a terrible scene occurring in most large cities, the perceived indictment of “blue on black.” There were times when I found some scenes difficult to read as I know they occur and it’s sad, challenging, begs deniability.
But the author doesn’t stop there. There are several other issues here that are fed the public, not the least of which is social media and the sensationalist news bombarding us each night. Perhaps the naive public would prefer to believe the old saying, “Believe nothing you hear, and only one half that you see.” (Yes, that wasn’t Mark Twain, that was Edgar Allen Poe.)
The family of the young man figures prominently as Jade (Tyrell’s sister) and Kelly (his father) wade through grief, anger, and heartbreak. Kelly has returned to mourn the death of his son after an absence of ten years and experiences alienation from his family owing to his abandonment. Jade is bent on revenge and blinded by anger. Ryan can’t come to terms with what happened, something in his backstory, and it’s his therapist who advises he should live where he works.
The POV trades chapters with Jade and Kelly in third person. They are as well developed as Ryan, who has a fiancé in the wings. The storyline extends through activism, gang control of hoods, racism, and complex family ties. There are intimate glimpses into each family, creating an emotional tie and investment in each camp. A view to both sides.
Kelly gradually wheedles his way back into the family with the exception of Jade. Jade, meanwhile, has met and developed a plan of revenge against Ryan. But something goes haywire–and I found myself disbelieving what would happen next. Just not going to happen. It wouldn’t.
While I couldn’t exactly get into Kelly’s shoes, neither did I empathize so much with Ryan--the man just shouldn’t have tried to follow in his father’s footsteps–a cop he’s not. Regina, Tyrell’s mother, is engaging and a grief-stricken, believable character while chaos is swirling around her.
There is a thoughtful suggestion to solving the larger problem–that of getting to know each other and times when the author presented arguments such as “our young black men are much more likely to die at the hands of another black man than a cop.” Or, “turn your frustration into legislation.”
There are a couple of twists you didn’t see coming and, whether or not likely, dropped your heart and gave you a “no way out” feel. This can’t end well. While we get both sides of the coin periodically, it’s a contention too complicated to solve easily in a hard-hitting novel of the topic and the conclusion probably ends the only way it could. The book is one that should be widely read, particularly in our volatile climate.
I remember participation in our local gospel choirs (including the MLK Celebration Choir), the admonition to wear “stained glass colors.” The music was joyous, the musicians gifted, and my soprano buddy, Linda, beautiful (she still is). It was, indeed, a celebration, but in more ways than one.
I received this digital download from the author in exchange for a review. This pounds out a message more should read. It’s fast-paced and shocking. It’s gritty and hard to read and that’s why more people should.
Genre: African American Urban Fiction, Urban Fiction
Publisher: WiDo Publisher
- ASIN: B07X36LH8Z
Print Length: 300 pages
Publication Date: September 10, 2019
Source: Direct Author Request
Title Link: Hands Up
The Author: [Goodreads] Stephen Clark is a former award-winning journalist who served as a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times and as a politics editor for the Washington, D.C. bureau of FoxNews.com. Stephen grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia and now lives in North Jersey with his wife and son. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications from Arcadia University and a master’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University. Find Stephen at:
©2019 V Williams