Kristi Belcamino
Polis Books
May 2017

“Nikki” Black, a 17-year-old runaway, escaped from a bad home situation in the Midwest, to an even worse situation in L.A. When the book opens, Nikki’s new “boyfriend” is attempting to force her into the porn industry. With a little luck and some steel toed boots, Nikki escapes, taking a 12-year-old named Rain with her. When Nikki suggests that they find a cop to help Rain, the girl takes off. Now alone on the streets of L.A. with only the clothes on her back, Nikki finds herself at the American Hotel. A kind bartender sets her up with a room above the bar, and a waitressing gig at a Mexican restaurant down the street.

Nikki hasn’t forgotten Rain, and keeps an eye out for her. She eventually catches up with Rain and finds that the young girl is hooked on heroin. With the help of her new friends at the hotel, they get Rain off the drugs, but they can’t keep her safe from the black limo that patrols the neighborhood looking for her. When Rain does get snatched, no one believes Nikki, but Nikki can’t let it go. She begins investigating who wanted to kidnap a young homeless addict off the streets. People connected with her investigation start turning up dead, and Nikki and her friends must come up with a plan to save Rain. But first, they need to survive the riots that are setting the city on fire.

What a great read. Nikki Black has a sad and compelling backstory, but she is a determined and fierce protagonist which makes her an absolute pleasure to spend time with. I enjoyed watching her grow and develop over the course of the novel. And the secondary characters are well-drawn and compelling as well—every character at the hotel is equally fascinating and adds life and color to the story. The setting and time period are also pitch perfect—LA during the riots was a scary but fascinating time, and it provides a strong backdrop for the mystery Nikki is investigating.
Erica Ruth Neubauer