Lelia Freeman hasn't had an easy life and the broad, sweeping arc of her experience sets up the Dark Side of Valor, a debut suspense novel by Alicia Singleton. The first half of the book delves into Lelia's childhood, where she is raised by an alcoholic, single mother. When Lelia turns sixteen, she runs away, determined to make a better life for herself. Setting off from New York to Los Angeles, she lives on the streets, vowing to avert the lure of drugs and prostitution. She survives, fending for herself, ultimately empowered by congregants of a Christian church who encourage her to help other homeless runaways.
The novel then fast-forwards ten years. Courageous Lelia has been transformed into a prominent child advocate. When Washington D.C. appoints her to a task force in search of orphans in the war-torn African Sudan, Lelia sets off only to discover the greater political implications of her mission. Things take a dangerous turn when the corrupt president of the Sudan takes Lelia prisoner. Can Elijah Dune, a mercenary grappling with skeletons from his own past, rescue Lelia from a deadly fate?
Singleton has created authentic characters and has embroiled them inside a chilling, complicated story. As rats crawl along tenement baseboards, readers will shiver and feel the palpable depths of predatory evil--and compassion--that lurks inside the hearts of many who cross Lelia's path. The human instinct toward triumph and striving to do the right thing, despite personal cost, are the major threads running through this haunting, suspenseful novel.
Dark Side of Valor by Alicia Singleton
Strebor Books (A Division of Simon & Schuster), $15, Trade Paper, 9781593093853, 352 pp
Publication Date: February 7, 2012
Please note: This review is a reprint and is being posted (in a slightly different form) with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (2/17/12), click HERE.