“The Janes” by Louisa Luna is a distressing tale of human trafficking, crimes against children, violence, corruption, hospitals, and bolt cutters. It is, perhaps, not appropriate for all readers. In a first person narrative, readers meet “the girls”: underage, imprisoned, and desperate. The one hope is Alice; she saved someone before; she could liberate again.
California was its own planet, and Alice Vega had lived there her whole life. When bodies of two unidentified Latina girls, Jane 1 and Jane 2, show up in the El Centro, California morgue, and one has Vega’s name on a small slip of paper, she is called by local authorities for some casual, informal consultation.
Vega is an unconventional PI who specializes in finding mission persons. Former cop Max Caplan comes onboard as her assistant but has a very fluid job description because working with Vega is just plain dangerous. Vega knows how to get what she wants, and she knows there are other girls. Her methods are unconventional, controversial, and effective. She observes tiny details, things missed by most, details that make a difference. She has special skills and special sources.
Conversations are friendly, but pointed, focused, and probing. Vega seems to know the answers to questions before she asks them and is able to effortlessly pull every bit of information from people without them knowing how she does it. When the police investigation produces few results, Vega moves ahead on her own. She finds herself in the center of conspiracies, international conflicts, and unprecedented cover-ups. Events that seem to be unrelated are suddenly connected, and people are linked in unexpected ways. People are going to be fired; people are going to die. “The Janes” is compelling and grows in intensity as it progresses. Vega is unconventional, yet anyone who does handstands to improve focus is a fascinating character. At times reality and common sense are suspended to advance the story, but this does not detract from the strength of the book. I received a review copy of “The Janes” from Louisa Luna, Doubleday, and Penguin Random House