The Summer Children by Dot Hutchison is being called book three in the Collector series, but don’t be fooled. It has little to nothing to do with the earlier two novels (which were pretty great by the way) and is very much a stand alone book. We return to the FBI team of the prior tales and with the appearance of some of the Butterfly girls, but The Summer Children is about FBI Special Agent Mercedes Ramirez.
“…I drop my purse, gun in hand with my finger stretched along the side of the trigger guard before I can put thought to it. In the bright glare of the porch light, a shadow sits on the bench swing. I inch forward past Siobhan, gun aimed down, until I can see more clearly through the rails. When my eyes finally adjust, I damn near drop the gun.
Madre de Dios, there is a child sitting on my porch, and it is covered in blood…”
Special Agent Mercedes Ramirez finds a young boy, clutching a teddy bear, covered in blood sitting on her front porch. The child tells her that he was brought to her home by an angel who told him he would be safe there. The child also tells Ramirez that the Angel killed his parents. But the parents weren’t just killed, they were slaughtered with a rage Ramirez and the team haven’t seen in a long time. What is soon evident is that the boy had been abused by his parents. The teddy bear he is clutching, is exactly like the teddy bears that the team gives out to abused children to comfort them. There is an avenging angel dispensing justice.
Mercedes has her own history as well. Abused by her father and with a family that turned their backs on her cries for help. Even now, so many years later, her family blames her for what happened and how they are viewed by the community. Now with a child on her doorstep, that world is coming back to her. Only, this is just the beginning and another child and another begin to find their way to her home. All of them, victims of abuse.
Someone is out there. Someone with access to private family records. Someone who is killing, with savage anger, the abusers of children. Someone who knows Mercedes Ramirez and knows what she does in the FBI. Someone who even knows where she lives.
“…Then the woman grabbed a blanket and wrapped the little girl in it, hugging her close but oh so gently. Her eyes were kind and sad, and she stroked the girl’s hair and whispered that she was going to be okay, she was going to be okay. She was safe now. She gave the girl a teddy bear to hug and cry into, and stayed with her even as others crowded into the basement to take away Daddy and all his friends. Daddy was furious, yelling terrible things, but the woman just hugged the girl, and covered her ears so she didn’t have to hear what her daddy said. The lady stayed with her in the ambulance, and in the hospital, and told her she was going to be okay.
Once upon a time, there was a little girl who was scared of angels.
Then she met one, and she wasn’t afraid anymore….”
Dot Hutchison has created a deep and well thought out cast of characters in her novels and each one is capable of taking its own series and running with it. In the prior two tales, Ramirez was an integral part of the team but she was only that. A part of the team. Here she steps into her own and fills each page with angst and pain and betrayal. She also fills them with hope and drive and the desire to right the wrongs that have hurt her. She is the lone warrior, standing on the shores, trying desperately to hold back the waves of horror and pain. It costs her. Her unwillingness to compromise. It costs her family and lovers.
This novel does not shy away from the truth of child abuse. Physical or sexual. It does not shy away from the inability of government agencies to cope with the horrific amount of abuse that exists in this country. It may be for some readers, hard to digest. But that is what is needed. It should offend and revolt you. You should find it disgusting on a level that you didn’t even know you had.
The murderer in this novel is someone we all know. It is in all of us. It is someone who has simply had enough.
The Summer Children is a terrific book that will leave a powerful mark on you. Be ready to hold it dear and hold it far away, with the same hand.