Book Review: A Silver Medallion by James R. Callan

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I HAVE LONG BEEN an avid fan of Jim Callan’s cozy mysteries. He does a brilliant job of tapping into my imagination so I can view the vivid scenes of his stories through his eyes and the eyes of his characters.

Jim has always written comfortable mysteries.

The bad guys are villainous, to be sure.

The crimes may be harsh and heinous.

But the locations are familiar even if I’ve never been there.

The writing is strong, yet gentle.

The hero is a calming influence over any situation, no matter how bitter or confusing or boisterous it may be.

Jim cleverly connects all the dots.

The hero wins.

The bad guys don’t.

And justice prevails.

James R. Callan
James R. Callan

A Silver Medallion, however, is different. It’s the kind of Jim Callan mystery I have not read before. The storyline has a sharper and harder edge, and so does his writing. A Silver Medallion is perhaps darker than any of Callan’s previous novels. It is a frightening tale ripped straight from today’s headlines. It deals with slavery in a land where slavery has long been abolished.

A vicious band of ruthless slave traffickers from Mexico is holding a woman against her will in Texas. She is one of many. She wears no chains. Yet she has been imprisoned in the most brutal way possible. Her children are being held captive in Mexico. If she escapes, the children will die. Her life is a nightmare that she realizes will never end.

Jim’s taut writing captures the depravity of the slave traffickers. He writes: “José’s head jerked in their direction. Slowly, his eyes opened wider, his thin lips parted. His face turned red as he sucked in air. His voice escalated into a roar. “They stole my plane and the girls?” He turned his attention back on the woman in front of him. “You let them steal the children? Do you know how much they were worth to me? Do you know how hard it is to get children that age?” The woman was cowering. He pulled a pistol from his belt cocked it and aimed it at the woman’s head.”

Enter Crystal Moore who learns of the woman’s plight.

She’s not in law enforcement. She’s not particularly courageous. She knows what fear is all about and, in reality, has no reason to reach out and try to help the woman.

But Crystal Moore has a conscience. And she will fight as long as she needs to free the woman from her bonds, even traveling to Mexico in a valiant effort to rescue the children. Their freedom guarantees a mother’s freedom.

But the struggle is a precarious one. The slave traffickers want Crystal dead, and, if necessary, they will kill anyone close to her. But this much, in their opinion, is for certain. She must be stopped at all costs. What’s another unmarked grave in Mexico soil?

Who can Crystal count on? Her hopes depend a street-wise friend, a former bull rider, a mysterious ally in Mexico, and a feisty grandmother who is tough enough to charge hell with a bucket of water. She’s no stranger to a shotgun either.

The battle will rattle some nerves. The suspense is suffocating. The most frightening aspect of the novel, however, is that salve trafficking is not just a mere plot point. It’s a savage crime taking place every day in the hidden corners of America. Lives are being destroyed, and so few of us are even aware that the crime exists. We know drugs are smuggled across the border. But women are being smuggled into the United States as well. And Jim Callan has dared to shine a harsh light on a vicious, and unforgivable crime.

Has he written another cozy mystery? Or is his novel a thriller rising up on the dark side of the street. I have my opinion. I’ll let the readers form their own.

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  • Caleb Pirtle

    Nobody writes with the clarity of James M. Callan. His cozy mysteries are a delight to read.

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