Cousins Shorty Davis and Booker T Brooks grew up in pretty much the same circumstances: single mother, too many siblings crowded into a small ghetto apartment. So what makes one kid choose violence as his method to survive living on the streets and the other choose education? Chicago reporter Jo Sullivan doesn’t know or have time to worry about it. When a severed head turns up in an alley dumpster, she’s too busy trying to find out why all the evidence seems to point to the one kid least likely to have committed the crime.
Shorty and Booker are cousins, but they have chosen radically different paths in life. Nevertheless, they care about each other, although in different ways. They get caught up in violence that is not of their making and Booker’s chance at an education is threatened when he is framed for a brutal murder.
The characters in this novel are incredibly real. Thankfully, I’ve never been in a situation such as Shorty’s and Booker’s, but I felt as if I were an integral part of it. Jo Sullivan, a reporter, is the third main character, and certainly her personal life is not much easier psychologically than the boys’. She may not be living on the street, but the drama in her family life is more than sufficient to cause her to take up Booker’s cause not only as a distraction from her own problems but also as a way of gaining clarity for herself.
The pacing is excellent. There are surprises around every corner and I tried so hard to help Booker find a way out of his situation. He wants so much to do the right thing, but he is also loyal to Shorty and Irma Cochran, or Mrs. C as the boys call her, who has fostered both of them in the past.
Solving the mystery is complex. Without giving away any spoilers, I found it difficult to sort out a real motive and the crimes turn out to cover a lot of years. But why would anyone want to frame Booker, a young man who is doing everything he can to get out of his homeless situation?
Mystery lovers are certain to find Box of Rain to be a gripping story, not only filled with excitement, but one which deals with some very real current issues.