Review: Murder on the Down Low by Pamela Samuels-Young

   Murder on the Down Low
Pamela Samuels-Young; Ebook, 406 pages
Published September 1st 2008 by Goldman House Publishing
Source: review copy from the author
A high-profile lawsuit erupts into chaos, revealing its place in a larger spree of violence in this scandalous tale of lust, lies, and vengeance. A brazen gunman is targeting prominent African American men on the streets of Los Angeles, and police are completely baffled. At the same time, savvy big-firm attorney Vernetta Henderson and her outrageous sidekick, Special, lead the charge for revenge against a man whose deceit caused his fianceé’s death. For Special, hauling the man into court and suing him for wrongful death just isn’t good enough. While she exacts her own brand of justice, a shocking revelation connects the contentious lawsuit and the puzzling murders.Goodreads blurb

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The plot of this novel turned out to be a surprise for me, I will admit I had no idea what the “down low” [Wikipedia link] phenomenon referred to, I was basically clueless. After reading a bit into the novel I got wind of what was what, I mean it became clear to me with chapter 1.

I salute the topic the novel tackles, but this DL thing is more of a secondary focus to me, though it is an interesting phenomenon. The most important aspect it calls attention upon, in my opinion, is HIV.

There are at least two poignant lines I will keep with me for a long while; to this point I will cite Nichelle [page 219]:

“[…] community is going to have to recognize that condemning these guys because they’re gay is wrong. […] Once we do, maybe they won’t feel the need to hide who they are.”

And the second thing I took to heart from reading this novel is, I cite [page 270]:

“[…] HIV doesn’t pick you because you’re gay or because you’re a bad person. It picks you because you’re available.”

Amen to that.

The plot was interesting, though I will say the major topics it brushes on and the characters stood out more then the story’s development in itself, I mean I wasn’t dying to know who did it, as I usually do with crime/courtdrama thrillers. I liked the writing, and my reaction towards the characters will prove that; when the writing doesn’t appeal to me, I simply don’t connect with the characters, so the fact I strongly like or dislike a character means it’s real to me, and not some cardboard figure. Some of the characters of this novel have triggered strong emotional responses in me, and I’ll tell you about it.
So if I had to mention a really strong point of the novel, aside the major topics it shines some light upon – HIV and tolerance, it would be character building. Though I wouldn’t necessarily want to be friends with some, and would have loved to personally have known others, Pamela Samuels Young is very gifted at building extremely vivid and strong characters that you’ll love or love to hate, but either way they’re bound to leave a strong impression.

I found the character Special to be, I am sad to admit, annoying. Pushy (borderline aggressive perhaps?) – harassing and stalking Eugene – , nosy, rather irrational in places – storming this place or that other, jumping people to tell them whatever about this or that, reacting dramatically to rather predictable consequences of her actions -, and rather intolerant (I’m sorry, that’s how she came across to me) for half or something of the novel; she makes this declaration about her being tolerant somewhere down the line, but her behavior isn’t exactly transmitting that up to that point. In my understanding, being tolerant does not equal being lenient towards some while becoming embittered and aggressive towards others, so being cool with J.C. coming out does not cancel Special’s viciousness towards Eugene, I’m sorry. And her behavior is vicious towards him, no matter what she might be under the impression gives her a right or the option to behave so, there’s nothing in the world that would.

Vernetta was way more likable, but I wouldn’t say I had a lot of love for her overall, for one simple reason: she puts up with Special’s ridiculous behavior, she doesn’t call it for what it is and makes a real entrance in her madness after the woman’s ridiculous behavior gets her, surprise!, in trouble. In the end Special’s self-centered and immature, thoughtless behavior ends up costing her friends, something that a more reasonable and less me-me-me-oriented person would have seen and tried to prevent. I’m sorry if it seems heartless of me to think so, but I do.

If there’s one character I liked in this whole story, it’s Nichelle. I really liked her, she made sense to me, behaved in a way I found not only reasonable but likable and I resonated with her quite a lot. She was interested in the truth, in understanding, had a reasonable behavior throughout even though she had her moments of hurt or shock or whatever. Nichelle is by far my favorite character, and there isn’t really a 2nd name on that list.
The message of the author’s end note made a whole lot more sense to me then some of the attitudes described during.

I’ve been thinking about this review for 3 days now, I couldn’t decide if it was a 3 or a 4 butterflies read for me. This has happened to me before, so I went with the same reasoning, if I’m not feeling it as a clear 4 then it’s a 3.
I do recommend you read it, it’s an interesting read and a well written book.



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