On Friday, August 15, local crime fiction author Frank Zafiro announced on his Facebook page that "The Trade Off", a novel he co-wrote with Bonnie Paulson, is now available for pre-order on Amazon. The book, which is scheduled to be released on September 9, explores the dark world of human trafficking and brings some of those issues home to the mean streets of Spokane.
After a teenage girl named Taylor is kidnapped by two unsavory characters from a bad part of Spokane, her uncle and a local police detective attempt to get her back before she is sold into slavery. Working both inside and outside the law, the novel's two protagonists race against time to do whatever it takes to get her back.
According to the synopsis that is available at Amazon and Zafiro's official website, "How deep into the sex slave industry will you go to save someone you love? How far will your duty take you?
"On the surface, Heather Williams buys and sells young women in a burgeoning underground sex trade. But not everything is as it seems. She is really 'Gus' MacIntyre, an undercover detective, targeting human traffickers and rescuing the desperate women they enslave. But how far will she go to stop them? And where does her job end, and duty begin?
"'Bull' Porter seems like a prototypical macho hunter who owns a sporting goods store. But when his niece Taylor suddenly disappears, he plunges into the search for her with the same ferocity he stalks prey in the wilderness. The only difference is that this hunt takes place on the dirty streets of the city’s underbelly, and the hunted can turn the tables in an instant. How far will Bull go to save his niece?
"As Gus and Bull battle with human traffickers to recover Taylor, both must face their own struggles and secrets…and eventually each other. Faced with political pressure and a ticking clock, they soon realize that nothing is free in this world. Nothing comes easy. For everything, there is a trade-off."
Much like other books Zafiro co-wrote with collaborators such as Jim Wilsky, Colin Conway and Eric Beetner, "The Trade Off" alternates between chapters told from the perspective of MacIntyre and chapters told from the perspective of Porter. This allows the authors to show two very different approaches to the primary objective of rescuing Taylor.
The chapters focusing on MacIntyre have police procedural elements that should appeal to fans of Zafiro's popular River City novels and television series such as "Rizzoli and Isles" or "Luther." The chapters focusing on Porter are more like what might happen if a character from one of the Sheriff Bo Tully mysteries by Patrick F. McManus wandered into a more serious story, but retained some fun quirks and a distinctly Idaho-flavored sense of humor.
If the first 11 chapters of an advance review copy are enough to get a good feel for "The Trade Off", crime fiction lovers from the greater Spokane area and northern Idaho should enjoy the novel. Zafiro was a major with the Spokane Police Department before he retired to write full time and Paulson is a Spokane Valley resident, so they clearly understand the community and get all the little details right as they describe heinous crimes happening in the Lilac City. Seeing familiar locations such as Clinkerdagger's or Joe Albi Stadium should add to the fun for local readers.
The plot is gripping enough to appeal to anyone who enjoys a well-crafted crime novel. The subject matter may be shocking for some readers, but Paulson and Zafiro deal with grim realities with a light enough touch to keep from being too dark or explicit. The authors do a good job of balancing a powerful action-adventure story with material that may teach people something along the way.
"The Trade Off" will be available to purchase in a Kindle ebook edition for $2.99. People who don't own Kindles have the option of downloading free apps from Amazon that would allow them to read the book on their smart phones, laptop computers or other devices.