Delayed Justice, by Constance Bretes, tells the story of lovers separated by interfering families and tragedy. Sami Parker was severely injured five years ago following a bombing that killed the fiancée of her former lover, Sheriff Makeeta Robertson. On the surface, Sami appeared to be the obvious suspect with motive and condemning fingerprints found at the scene of the crime. Despite his undying love for Sami, Makeeta betrays her, breaking her heart and spirit which leads Sami to a solitary life away from the town and people she once loved.
This is a poignant story of love and betrayal. Though isolated and broken, Sami makes a life for herself as a best-selling author once she’s cleared of any wrong doing. She has one friend, the aging Shadow Dancer, who is her confidant and father-figure all rolled into one. Makeeta, meanwhile, has continued his life with little change despite the tragedy he’s experienced. The two meet for the first time in five years when a viable suspect in the bombing is arrested. Sami’s testimony becomes not only the key to the conviction, but also the gateway to bringing the former lovers back together.
This is a short story (122 pages) whose strength lies in the author’s talent for detailed description. Through the course of the book we learn much about the Northern Cheyenne Native Americans of Montana, including some of their history and customs. Bretes tells their story with great respect and I learned much about modern-day reservation life. But where I felt the book truly shined was during the trial at the center of the story. Bretes obviously knows her way around the courtroom and trial proceedings, which keeps the reader on the edge of their seat for the entirety of the trial.
As I read, though, I found that while the details were fascinating, the characters did not receive the same attention. The dialogue was very stiff and monotone, making it difficult to truly differentiate between speakers. And, while we come to know Sami fairly well, we don’t learn much about the book’s hero, Makeeta. Bretes could easily take Delayed Justice to the next level by fleshing out his character, giving the reader some insight into the man who has suffered incredible loss and not the tried and true town sheriff who appears to put duty above love.
This is Bretes’ first novel and according to her blog she has many more on the way. You can read about her and her upcoming stories here.
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