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  • Writer's pictureCynthia Tolbert

Kirkus Reviews: The Redemption

In Tolbert’s mystery-series installment, a university professor and her students defend a teen accused of multiple murders.

Emma Thornton, an assistant law professor at the Legal Clinic for the Homeless at St. Stanislaus University Law School in New Orleans, along with three of her third-year pupils—Melissa Granger, Lauren Acevedo, and Josh Delcambre—take on young Louis Bishop’s case. The 16-year-old is charged with shooting and killing two men at the Redemption housing project where he lives and is being tried as an adult. He has only a few family members who care about him, including his grandmother, known as Mama Ruby,and his aunt, Juanita Bishop; he also has an ally in Mr. Branson, his school guidance counselor, who notes that the young man has a distinct talent for clothing design. The murders of Brother Reginald Antoine and Sam Maureau seem unrelated but connections are later revealed that take readers into a world of lies and deception; further complicating the case is that many Redemption residents won’t talk to police and lawyers for fear of reprisal from local criminals, including Louis’ cousin, Marcus, who heads the drug-dealing Gangsta B’s. Thornton starts investigating with her three students, but soon removes Lauren from the case, due to her apparent discomfort around potential witnesses. Gaining the trust of those at the Redemption is a critical factor in proving Louis’ innocence. Plot twists and turns involving more murders, threats to investigators, and police corruption take readers on an intriguing ride. This richly told story offers fine characterization throughout: Louis is ultimately shown to be a boy struggling with traditional education but shining through his art, and Juanita is revealed as an astute businesswoman who cares for and protects her niece and nephew. Vivid description also brings the characters to life: “The receptionist garnished her look with four-inch chartreuse fingernails and glittery gold eye makeup. Emma, dressed in her navy suit, her hair in a ponytail, felt dull in comparison. A caterpillar among butterflies.”

An engaging and unpredictable whodunit.


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