This post of A Trade in Tears by author Samantha Shiye has been adapted from two previous posts. First is the spoiler free review followed by the spoiler full review and summary.
Thank you to author Samantha Shiye for providing me with a copy of A Trade in Tears in exchange for this honest review.
Spoiler Free Review
A Trade in Tears is a thriller about sex traffficking, serial rape, pedophilia, and police corruption. It is also a thriller that deviates slightly into paranormal territory with voices from the dead.
Based on the synopsis I was expecting more psychic activity and less campfire ghost story. A Trade in Tears takes some interesting risks but I’m not sure they paid off for me.
I appreciate the novel trying to really drive it home that sex trafficking is a very real problem, and yes even in first world nations. It’s an important issue to be cognizant of. However, I felt that the book’s message got diluted by the end due to some loose ends, odd supernatural story lines, and characters that felt somewhat out of place.
Since this novel is a mystery thriller it is hard to discuss many of these points in the spoiler free review without giving away the whole third act.
Outside of the plot points the exposition was heavy handed, the dialogue didn’t flow naturally, and many of the character relationships seemed odd or too convenient.
However, I did like that the main character Morag is a very strong woman who does not let a very tragic event or two beat her to the ground. She keeps going and hitting harder with each set back. She takes her fate into her own hands and she’s an admirable protagonist.
This book would likely be highly entertaining to fans of shows like Law and Order SVU. The violence is extreme, the messages are real. It takes real threats that many of us choose to ignore and rubs them in our faces. We do need to remember that anyone can be kidnapped, sold, abused, assaulted, or even just mugged. It’s a dangerous world, don’t get complacent!
I just think the message would have been more successful if the book had stayed the course with traditional justice. It veers away from standard law and order but with not enough reason to make me believe that was the right choice.
Overall I think that A Trade in Tears could use some polish. It has a lot of good structure and has a good message to deliver but it just missed the mark for me.
A Trade in Tears Summary
At its core A Trade in Tears is a thriller about sex trafficking. But it extends a few odd branches away from the formula, taking some risks that I’m not quite sure paid off.
The book begins with Cindy, just days away from her 18th birthday, getting violently raped. She’s attacked after leaving her friend Faye’s house, an odd character in a 30 something self made millionaire who hangs out with girls much younger than her.
Morag, another young adult but with a police family, finds her on the side of the road and calls for the ambulance. They will become friends quickly after this.
Morag has a somewhat adopted brother Johnny, his girlfriend Annie has gone missing. There is concern that she will be another victim of the serial rapist who attacked Cindy. Johnny becomes even more concerned and confused when her ex Dave gives him a picture of Annie participating in group sex.
Morag gets deeply involved in this case from all angles. She wants to help Johnny. She’s helping the police question Cindy since she feels comfortable around her. And her detective dad is leading the investigation.
Cindy claims that three men were present at her rape, not just one attacker. Cindy’s counselor claims that Cindy is repressing memories of childhood abuse.
Okay, let’s pause here. This is just a big issue I have with books and movies. Time and again studies have shown that “repressed memories” are far more likely to have been planted or manipulated that actually recovered. It’s a very dangerous train of thought to follow that can lead to false accusations and even false convictions. Not to mention added trauma for victims.
On the evidence side of the case the police are discovering that there is evidence of police involvment with the pedophilia and trafficking rings. They suspect a female former officer who left the force some years back.
To add to the questions of the case Annie is found dead by apparent suicide. Johnny and those closest to him on the case do not believe that’s true, they think she was murdered but have to prove it.
Dave is trying to befriend Johnny in ways that seem most suspicious. It’s revealed to the reader that Dave is involved in the sex trafficking and that Annie was a victim.
Then Johnny starts hearing Annie speak to him. Whether Annie’s death was murder or suicide, she is most certainly dead. He should not be hearing her. But he does, and he talks back. Morag is concerned about this but doesn’t do much about it.
Then Morag is violently raped. This obviously is a targeted attack to get her and her father to back down from solving the case.
Morag is feeling angry and vulnerable. Faye, Cindy’s 30 something friend, offers to care for her. Here we have a scene in the book that I found more disturbing than any of the rapes.
Faye is more than 10 years older than Morag and involves herself in her life. Faye offers to give her a massage. With oils and candles and the whole works, not just a casual shoulder rub. Then Faye manipulates the massage into performing oral sex on Morag. It is already established that Morag considers herself straight. Faye claims to be straight but then takes advantage of a young woman in her most vulnerable state.
I’m sorry, that’s icky. Is it supposed to be okay because they’re both women? It’s still icky.
At this point in the book I was absolutely sure that Faye would turn out to be the pedophile female officer ring leader alluded to earlier. That twist would’ve made sense and given purpose to the icky scene just described! Alas, that was not the case.
Back with Johnny, Annie tells him to go on a treasure hunt. He does, and finds burried treasure. Huh? I thought this might turn out to be a dream or a metaphor but it’s not, it comes back at the end as literally having happened.
After the Faye incident Morag decides to leave town and figure out what her life is now. She happens upon a small town that happens to have a world class martial arts studio that happens to immediately offer her a job and a place to stay.
Back in the city Morag’s friend is kidnapped. It seems the kidnappers thought it was Morag.
Morag leaves the small town and begins baiting rapists. She dresses teasingly and waits for one to attack. Then she goes all martial arts on them and takes their penises as trophies. It’s all very I Spit on Your Grave.
She manages to mangle several rapists while the police seem to be getting nowhere. Then Morag decides to go straight and join the police force proper.
Morag’s dad answers a call knowing it’s an ambush. He still goes and he still gets ambushed and is shot and killed. He has figured out who the mole is but dies before he can just say the name, he says a cryptic riddle instead.
While Morag was hunting rapists Johnny was hunting Dave. He kidnaps Dave but can only take one person at a time so leaves Dave’s partner. Morag finds the partner and tortures him. Johnny comes back to find the mutilated living remains and takes him too.
Morag then finally decides to talk with her own mother for the first time since any of this went down. Mom realizes that it was her twin brother that raped Morag, he raped Mom too back when they were young. He’s the mole in the police force.
Morag, Mom, and Johnny uncover loads and loads of concrete evidence against Mom’s brother. Definitely enough to close the case and put him and many others away. But instead of doing that Johnny kidnaps him too.
He is keeping the three rapists in the actual dungeon that Annie told him about, where he found the literal burried treasure. He’s keeping them under the watchful gaze of Annie’s corpse draped and decorated with treasure.
Oh and that female officer who was involved? She was killed at some point off page. Very anti-climactic.
So essentially, none of the victims will ever know that their rapists were punished in any way and they will continue to think that they’re on the street despite having several means of getting them convicted properly. Thanks Annie’s voice.
A Trade in Tears has a few issues. I do not think a story about sex trafficking also needs ghosts and burried treasure. That was pretty far from the mark in my opinion. I also think that if vigilante justice should be served it should be clear that traditional methods would not have been viable.
It’s an interesting tale if nothing else, it is different. I just wish it had all come together in a more realistic way. It kept talking about the reality of the violence but diminished its own points by adding such unusual elements.
2/5 shadowy figures lurking in the darkness 👤👤
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