Book: Somebody Else's Child

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Somebody Else's Child

Author: Terris McMahan Grimes
Publisher: Onyx Books

Theresa is a career woman, a mother and a wife. When her mother calls to say there’s trouble at her elderly neighbor’s house and she’s going over to investigate, Theresa has no choice but to get involved. Before the night is over, Theresa finds herself caught up in the harsh brutality of the streets, with a drive-by shooting, a mysterious kidnapping, and more.


When her mother’s elderly neighbor is shot in an apparent drive-by, Theresa Galloway finds herself prowling the streets of Sacramento in search of the killer and the dead woman’s missing grandchild. In this world of crackheads and gangsters, Theresa’s in over her head, but we soon see her rolling in the dirt in her Ann Klein outfit, ducking gunfire, breaking her fiberglass nails, and losing her pumps. This mystery, Grimes’s first in a series starring this “intrepid soul sister” and married mother of two, won Anthony Awards for best first novel and best paperback original in 1997. Theresa is a reluctant sleuth but an appealing narrator: witty, affable, and somewhat prudish, driven as much by her domineering mother as by curiosity. Somebody Else’s Child is told in her fresh and lively voice, and it’s full of both smart dialogue and deftly drawn characters. Theresa’s “rather excitable” mother and the children are especially well crafted.

Much of the drama here comes from Theresa’s attempts to balance her job, family, and amateur-detective work, which no one seems to take seriously. Before long, it looks like Theresa’s job at the California Department of Environmental Equity is being taken over by a foul-mouthed underling, her husband is having an affair with her old nemesis, and her children are running wild. Add to this the vague hostility of the white world—which works less as social commentary than as subtly realistic detail—and the sense of pervasive jeopardy escalates. When things get stressful, Theresa retreats to her bathtub; by the end of this gripping and satisfying mystery, the reader may feel like doing the same.

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Theresa Galloway wants to have the Buppie—Black Urban Professional—life, but she keeps getting drawn into un-Buppie situations by her bossy, quick-tempered, delightfully pragmatic mother, Lorraine Barkley. Excellent portrayal of a black woman trying to do right by both her family and the ‘hood. —Margaret Maron

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