A big welcome to Don Travis as part of his blog tour with Other Worlds Ink for Abaddon’s Locusts from DSP Publications.
I haven’t read anything by this author before, and I now need to play catchup. Although there are a couple of relationships in the story, romance isn’t the focus; the mystery/detective part of the story is. In saying that, I liked the glimpses of BJ and Paul’s relationship. It was obvious they loved each other, yet there is a hint of insecurity from time to time which added a touch of realism. The scenes from BJ’s POV are told in 1st person, and the others from 3rd. I thought this worked well as it gave insight into BJ’s mind, yet allowed other narratives to happen in the story, rather than the reader only knowing what he knew. This didn’t detract from the suspense, but added to it, as I often knew the danger other characters were in before BJ did, and it also allowed more character growth in the supporting cast, particularly Jazz.
The title is very apt, and well chosen. I thought it fit the theme, and tone of the story well.
The story hooked me in immediately. I loved the main characters, and the supporting cast felt very real too. I have to give a shout out to B.J. and Paul’s neighbour, an older lady who is a retired DEA agent, and someone I wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of. She totally rocked. I thought the characters worked well together as they put all the clues together and put a plan in place. I liked that they didn’t always make the right decision, and in one case actually tipped off the bad guy, and that even when they discovered who they were up against, it still took a while to take the ring down, and find proof that would hold up in court.
The author doesn’t pull punches in showing how the victims of these horrific trafficking rings are enticed and then caught in a trap of drug dependency. The lengths these people go to in order to safeguard their operations was chilling, as was the depth of corruption which spread to those who are supposed to be charged with bringing these trafficking rings down. I also liked the insight into the Navajo Nation, and the way that the author showed that every society is made up of good and bad, and the prejudices people hold against others who are different to themselves.
Despite the theme of the story, I found it to be a fast read, as I kept turning pages, wanting to find out what happened next, especially as the tension rose when the bad guys realised they needed to take action or risk having their entire operation taken down.
I’d recommend Abaddon’s Locusts to readers who enjoy a complex mystery detective story with interesting characters, loads of action, and a plot that doesn’t pull punches. 5 out of 5 stars.
DSP Publications author Don Travis has a new gay mystery book out: Abaddon’s Locusts.
When B. J. Vinson, confidential investigator, learns his young friend, Jazz Penrod, has disappeared and has not been heard from in a month, he discovers some ominous emails. Jazz has been corresponding with a “Juan” through a dating site, and that single clue draws BJ and his significant other, Paul Barton, into the brutal but lucrative world of human trafficking.
Their trail leads to a mysterious Albuquerquean known only as Silver Wings, who protects the Bulgarian cartel that moves people—mostly the young and vulnerable—around the state to be sold into modern-day slavery, sexual and otherwise. Can BJ and Paul locate and expose Silver Wings without putting Jazz’s life in jeopardy? Hell, can they do so without putting themselves at risk? People start dying as BJ, Paul, and Henry Secatero, Jazz’s Navajo half-brother, get too close. To find the answer, bring down the ring, and save Jazz, they’ll need to locate the place where human trafficking ties into the Navajo Nation and the gay underground.
About the Series:
BJ Vinson, a gay former-Marine, ex-cop licensed private investigator tries to pick his cases carefully, but prior loyalties or his sense of justice or something always gets in his way. He finds himself traveling all over his beloved state of New Mexico with his companion Paul Barton to mend other people’s problems.
Don Travis’s most recent novel, Abaddon’s Locusts, deals with the growing problem of the sex trade traffic. When B. J. Vinson, confidential investigator, learns his young friend, Jazz Penrod, has disappeared and has not been heard from in a month, he discovers some ominous emails. Jazz has been corresponding with a “Juan” through a dating site, and that single clue draws BJ and his significant other, Paul Barton, into the brutal but lucrative world of human trafficking.
Their trail leads to a mysterious Albuquerquean known only as Silver Wings, who protects the Bulgarian cartel that moves people—mostly the young and vulnerable—around the state to be sold into modern-day slavery, sexual and otherwise. Can BJ and Paul locate and expose Silver Wings without putting Jazz’s life in jeopardy? Hell, can they do so without putting themselves at risk? People start dying as BJ, Paul, and Henry Secatero, Jazz’s Navajo half-brother, get too close. To find the answer, bring down the ring, and save Jazz, they’ll need to locate the place where human trafficking ties in to the Navajo Nation and the gay underground.
The book is told in the first person when BJ is the viewpoint character; third person when others serve that capacity. The following excerpt is the first time we see Jazz.
“Hey, wake up. Need to ask you something.”
Jazz roused from a dream as Juan shook him roughly. “Lemme alone,” he mumbled, seeking to recapture the reverie. Water Sprinkler and some other Navajo Yé’ii were in it. He grew surly when he realized the details escaped him. Wouldn’t have mattered much even if he could recall. He wasn’t raised on the old legends like most guys his age and didn’t understand a damned thing about that side of his blood. Water Sprinkler was the rain god—that much he knew. So likely that meant his parade was going to get rained on. Big time.
“Man, that crack shit’s taking you over. All you do’s fuck and bitch. Come on, man. Wake up.”
Jazz pushed himself against the headboard and tried to focus. The sheet fell away to reveal his naked torso. Seemed like he was always naked nowadays. Juan reached out and stroked his pecs. Jazz had liked and encouraged his touch …once. Now not so much. He shrugged the hand away. “Lemme alone. I finally got to sleep and you wake me up. I need a pipe, okay?”
“A shower’s what you need. Silver wings wants to meet you tonight.”
Jazz’s stomach did a flip-flop. “I don’t like him.”
“Well, he digs you. Think he’s gonna want you to move in with him.”
The idea was a crowbar jammed into the gears of an Jazz’s mind. His thinking came to a halt. He needed a pipe. That was the only good thing about Silver Wings. Jazz always got good crack before the man arrived. “Smoke,” he mumbled.
Juan shoved two photos at him. “Later. Right now, I need you to look at these pics.”
Jazz struggled to focus as he scanned the photos. They were the same handsome man, one with a shirt, the other without. His stomach cramped and he felt itchy. “Who’s this?”
“You tell me. He says he knows you. Says you told him about me?”
“You know him?”
Jazz blinked a couple of times and moved one picture back and forth until it became clearer. Struggling to get his mind to work, he rubbed his eyes before taking another look. The guy seemed familiar. But Jazz associated him with someone else. Someone he liked. Admired.
“Dude lives here in Albuquerque,” he said at length. “Don’t remember his name.”
“Does the name Paul mean anything to you?”
“Yeah. That’s it. Paul.” Jazz had no idea if that was correct, but it was easier to agree with Juan.
“I dunno. Just Paul.”
“You tell him about me? Send him my photo?”
“He says I did, I guess I did,” Jazz mumbled, sliding back beneath the thin covers. His eyes were closed as Juan left the room with a warning they’d have to leave for the meeting with Silver Wings in an hour.
But Jazz was struggling to think. Make connections. Paul. Barton! That was the guy’s last name. And they’d never exchanged Emails or pictures. He’d only seen the good-looking dude once. In Farmington. In some motel room. Had they got it on? Could be. He wrinkled his nose. Had he gotten with so many men he couldn’t remember them all? He shook his head emphatically. No, he wasn’t like that. He only went with guys he….
Jazz came upright in the bed as a shadowy figure flitted just out of reach in his head. BJ! BJ’s Paul was talking to Juan? Was the fucker two-timing BJ? His skin crawled as he shook his head again. No” No, Paul got in touch with Juan because… because BJ was looking for him! But how did he know about Juan?
Jazz lay back and battled his emotions. Henry musta given BJ his laptop. A flush enveloped his whole body as he imagined BJ reading his mail and looking at the photos. His blood pressure rose, sending beads of sweat down his sides. “Fuckers!” he muttered aloud. Shouldn’t be looking at his private stuff.
He let out his breath and the pressure eased. He had ventured out of his comfort zone for the promise of a steady connection. A loving, intelligent, exciting man of his own. Looking for what BJ had with Paul. It was all right at first. Practically everything he’d dreamed of. But it all turned to ashes. Pipe ashes.
Why had he let Juanito talk him into smoking crack? His new life was good without that crap. But Juanito promised him the pipes would make things even better. And they were—for a bit. Then it changed. He changed. The world changed. Now he pleasured men in exchange for the pipes. Men? Well, Juanito and Silver Wings. But he knew there would be more men one day. Probably when they took that trip to Mexico Juan talked about.
His frazzled mind called up the image of BJ. BJ was a detective. He’d find him and drag his ass out of this tangled mess. His heart soared until it nearly burst before abruptly slowing, leaving him woozy. Did he want out? Yeah, it would be good to go home. See his mom and Uncle Riley. Henry. His father. But if BJ got him out, the man he idolized would see what he’d become. He musta already seen the things he’d written to Juan. And the pictures. The last one was bad. Showed him manipulating himself as he smiled at the camera. His stomach plummeted as something drove him to bury his head beneath the bedcovers. Probably shame.
Jazz sobbed and willed his heart to stop. To cease. To spare him anything that lay beyond this moment, this room, this bed. But Coyote refused to throw a rock into Black Water Lake to summon death, so his heart ignored his wishes and thudded against his ribs in a stubborn, determined beat.
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Two men gazed down at the sleeping youth sprawled across the mattress. The older, his pleasant features blemished by a glint of cruelty in his dark eyes, smoothed silver wings of luxuriant hair at his temples before handing over a number of $100 bills to a young Hispanic almost as handsome as the boy on the bed.
Now fully clothed, Silver Wings exuded the authority of a player, of someone who counted. “Fucking beautiful. How old did you say he is?”
“Eighteen. Barely. Know that’s older’nyou usually like. But he’s a rare one, no? As lindaas a woman and as macho as a man. He took care of you, huh?”
Silver Wings rubbed his eyes as if remembering the last hour. “Fantastic. Must have worn himself out. Does he usually go comatose?”
“Ah, that is the drug. He claims he gets a bigger bang by charging up. But you benefit as well, no?” He eyed his companion. “He is yours for $25,000.”
Interest flickered and died. “Tempting. But my household isn’t set up for that kind of arrangement. I prefer to call when I feel the need. Even if that means sharing him.”
“You don’t take him, then we move him south.”
“South? To Mexico, you mean? Juárez?” That wouldn’t be too bad. El Paso was a short hop, and Juárez lay just across the border.
“At first, but then we gonna trade him up.”
Silver Wings understood the human trafficking language of trading up, but it was unusual to move members of the “family” out of country these days. “In Juárez? Sounds more like trading him down.”
“¡Órale! There’s some big money in Juárez. But a bigwig in the Middle East went apeshitover the kid’s pics. He wants him. And for a lot more than twenty-five. I only give you that price to let you know how much we ’preciateyour help.”
“Middle East, huh?” Silver Wings licked his lips. “Put off that transfer while I see if I can work something out.”
“Two days. Then I gotta move him. You know, easier to ship him overseas from Mexico than from the States.”
Silver Wings’ voice hardened. “You can do better than that. Give me a week to reorder my life. I’d like to visit him a couple of times. Usual fee, of course. That gives you reason enough to hold him here.”
“Okay, but not no more’n a week. I got people to answer to, you know.”
“I’d like him again tomorrow night, but it will have to be late. I have a dinner meeting.”
Hispano lowered his head. “As you wish. All you gotta do is call me.”
Silver Wings left the motel reluctantly. What would take place in that room now that they were alone? Just thinking about it raised a bead of sweat on his upper lip.
His mind returned to the offer he had received. The boy was expensive, and the economy was still struggling to recover from the Great Recession of 2008… but it was only money.
Monday, August 9, 2010, Albuquerque, New Mexico
I parked the Impala in front of my detached single-car garage and sat for a moment trying to figure out the cacophony on the radio. I’d failed to reset the station after Paul and I went for a rare game of weekend golf at the North Valley Country Club. Paul Barton was the sun in my sky, but I still struggled to understand my companion’s taste in music. Now something called “Alejandro” by a gal proclaiming herself to be Lady Gaga committed assault on my classical-music-loving ears. As I switched off the noise and stepped from the car, a high, uncertain voice snagged my attention.
“Yoo-hoo, Mr. Vinson. BJ!”
Mrs. Gertrude Wardlow, the late-afternoon sun catching in wayward strands of her white hair, waved at me from the foot of her driveway. She had lived in the white brick across the street for as long as I could remember. Mrs. W. and her husband, Herb, had been with the Drug Enforcement Administration from the time it was formed in 1973 until their retirement. Some ten years ago, Herb passed on to his reward—an urn on his widow’s mantelpiece. I walked out to meet her in the middle of Post Oak Drive.
“I’m so glad I caught you.” She fiddled with frilly lace at the neck of her lavender blouse. “A man on a Harley has been driving up and down the street. He stopped at your place twice. Rang the bell and then rode off.”
No doubt she was recalling the time when two thugs on another motorcycle attempted to gun me down. When she’d yelled to distract their murderous attention, they shot up the front of her house, scattering her husband all over the carpet.
I touched her shoulder. “Don’t worry, I’m not involved in any gang disputes at the moment. Not that I know of, anyway.”
Her smile turned impish. “That was an interesting day, wasn’t it? I just thought you should be aware someone was trying to contact you.”
“Thank you, Mrs. W. I’ll be on the lookout.”
After exchanging pleasantries, we parted. I mounted the steps to my front porch and paused to enjoy the welcoming aroma of tea roses my late mother planted. No evidence of a note on the door or in the mailbox. That meant the mysterious biker would probably return. I went inside and forgot the matter as I removed one of Paul’s casseroles from the fridge and got out a pan of rolls. I enjoyed their yeasty aroma almost as much as I liked their yeasty taste. Our household mantra was Paul Barton, freelance journalist, whips up gourmet meals; B. J. Vinson, formerMarineand ex-cop turned confidential investigator, burns toast.
We planned to stay home tonight and watch an episode of a new gumshoe program on the tube called The Glades. Matt Passmore, the guy who played the detective, was a way-cool customer who Paul claimed should be my role model. I’d no sooner set the dishes to heating than a rumble on the street caught my attention. A moment later the doorbell rang.
Don Travis is an Okie turned New Mexican. Each of his B. J. Vinson mystery novels features some region of his beautiful adopted state as prominently as it does his protagonist, a gay former Marine, ex-cop turned confidential investigator. Don never made it to the Marines (three years in the Army instead) and certainly didn’t join the Albuquerque Police Department.
He thought he was a paint artist for a while but ditched that for writing a few years back. A loner, he fulfills his social needs by attending SouthWest Writers meetings and teaching a free weekly writing class called Wordwrights at the North Domingo Multigenerational Center, an Albuquerque community center.