Puff piece reporter, Brandy Alexander, is determined to win the battle of self-improvement. She is eating better, (or at least telling people she is) working out (if sparring with a guy who fishes doughnuts out of the gutter and eats them counts) and checking her impulsive behavior at the door. But it's hard to stay on track when her own therapist gives her up as a lost cause. What's even harder for Brandy is turning down someone in trouble. Enter Crystal, a young teenage runaway whose friend, Star, has gone missing. Star was last seen getting into a mysterious stranger's car. In her efforts to reunite Crystal with Star, Brandy quickly becomes immersed in the dangerous subculture of homeless youth. As Brandy gets in over her head with hostile street gangs, pimps and others who prey upon the young teens, she looks to the tough and savvy Nicholas Santiago to help her navigate the mean streets. Soon, Brandy realizes that there is more behind Star's mysterious disappearance than she thought, and enlists the aid of ex-boyfriend, Detective Bobby DiCarlo, to help her solve an ever-growing tale of intrigue. Add to an already full plate planning her best friend's baby shower and nursing a broken heart, courtesy of Nick, and you've got the makings for the latest BRANDY ALEXANDER MYSTERY.
‘No Such Thing as a Free Ride’ is the fourth and latest in Shelly Fredman’s ‘Brandy Alexander’ mystery series. And I LOVED it!
In this instalment Brandy stumbles into the dark, depressing world of teen runaways. Having literally stumbled across a bleeding child in the middle of the street, Brandy becomes all consumed with finding out about the young woman. And in the process of investigating, Brandy discovers something rotten in the state of Philly... pregnant runaways found dead, miscarried babies missing and white collar paedophiles. And of course Brandy Alexander can’t let all of this go unpunished.
The mystery plot of ‘Free Ride’ is spectacular and superbly noir. This is perhaps the most uncomfortable but brilliantly sinister of all Fredman’s mystery plots. Teen runaways was always going to be an emotional subject for Brandy to explore, but I was shocked/awed by just how dark Fredman goes. It is at times an intensely sad and sore subject to read about – but by God, it’s good. The blackness of the story raises the stakes and amps up Brandy’s emotional upheaval. I did wonder how Brandy would play in this novel, considering that in ‘Free Lunch’ she had a sort of acknowledged peace with the horrors in her life. That being said, teen runaways were the perfect subject for Brandy to get caught up in, because it ensured that no matter what reconciliations she’d previously reached in her work, this new cause demanded more of her heart.
Brandy’s investigation into teen runaways sees her going toe-to-toe with pimps, alpha females and tough-talking street walkers. All together making for some wonderful (if heart-pumping) action scenes;
“Stand still you crazy son of a bitch,” he barked, which only made Alphonso rock harder.The runaways also made for important characterization when Brandy learns that the subject is close to Nick Santiago’s heart. Nick, mystery man; wanted by the police, untouchable and a drool-worthy bad-boy... also, the love of Brandy’s life (even if he doesn’t return the feelings). Nick started out bugging me in this book, as all the male characters seem to. Fredman writes real, so her men will not be found spouting long romantic and revealing diatribes. Damn. Nick is the most mysterious and tight-lipped character in the book, but I love the fact that by contrast Brandy is very open (and persistent) in revealing her feelings.
Beyond them lay the kid, curled into a fetal position and rolling around in his own vomit. The whole tableu was like something out of a Quentin Tarantino movie, only without the fun background music.
Though Nick is at once closed-off in this book, his and Brandy’s romance is gooooooooood. So, so good. I don’t want to give anything away, but this is really a turning-point book for Brandy, especially in regards to Nick.
‘Free Ride’ is hands-down and without a doubt my favourite so far in Shelly Fredman’s ‘Brandy Alexander’ mystery series. The book ends on a slight cliff-hanger that has me chomping at the bit for book #5... But that’s okay, because ‘Free Ride’ is so darn noir-good and brilliant that I don’t mind a little cliff-diving.