This is a hard review to write, and not because the stories are a mixed bag, and not because the writing is bad. No; in fact, the writing is that good, the stories are that compelling, and— wow, this collection is twenty-one body blows with a novella for the knockout punch. Excuse the allusion to boxing, but the subject of this anthology is Domestic Violence; its purpose is to raise awareness and funds for victims of Domestic Violence. Shy of 500 pages, Betrayed showcases the insidious horror and terror DV visits on women, children, families, and the corrosive damage it inflicts on first-responders and those working in the legal profession and social services.
Without spoilers: every story is worth reading. Anthologies tend to be a hit or miss affair, so my advice is dip into one story at a time, think about it, and return for another story. Terri Lynn Coop’s “Legal Aid” conveyed the frustrations and the nuances lawyers face advocating for their reluctant victims. Wendy Tyson’s “Soap,” for reasons I won’t explain, reminded me of Hitchcock’s Rear Window, but with a twist: Clint Eastwood instead of Jimmy Stewart. Liam Sweeny’s tale, set in Houston, has a noir atmosphere with some humor mixed in, and folds in an ethical decision for his PI. James L’Etoile’s “When the Music Stops” is poetic with its recurring image and metaphor. You may think of Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” I did. No spoilers, but D.V. Bennett’s “The Sound of a Wound” reads like an updated “The Most Dangerous Game” from Richard Connell. Bill Baber’s “No One Heard” chronicles ‘trickle down misery’ in simple understated prose, and deviated from the norm in that a mother’s physical and emotional abuse altered a young man’s life.
Elizabeth Heiter’s “The Second Shot” and Allison Brennan’s novella, “Mirror, Mirror” were a one-two combo that hit me hard. Heiter’s courtroom scenes are realistic as anything you’ll read from Scottoline or Turow. You learn why the lawyers ask the questions they do. Allison Brennan’s novella, a story with its double-whammy of a husband and wife — he’s a trauma nurse with military experience he won’t talk about and she’s a cop and both deal with DV — hit me hardest because of the ending. You have to read it.
Betrayed contains occasional profanity and brings the car accidents close to your window. Read. Rest. Return.