By K. Robert Einarson

The Concrete Maze is a story told by Marc Ramos about the disappearance of his cousin and his uncle's quest to find her. The police seem uninterested in locating the missing thirteen year old so they travel into dark corners of New York City that tourists try hard not to see to get her back. But the world of drugs and prostitution that his cousin disappeared into is unforgiving and what they find there changes both of them.

This novel is a departure from Torres "PRECINCT PUERTO RICO" series. This novel is darker, the themes more disturbing. Torres uses the perspective of Marc to put the reader the role of the sometimes somewhat unwilling accomplice. Tio (Spanish for 'Uncle') Luis pulls Marc with him day after day and forces him to put himself in danger often so Luis may get his beloved daughter back.

The central theme to this novel is family. Luis is willing to sacrifice everything he has to recover his daughter and that same sense of family motivates Marc to help his uncle. The irony here is that Luis routinely puts Marc in harm's way to get his daughter back.

The style that Torres used in this novel is very personal. The story is heartbreaking in places and angry in others. Torres captures the profound pain of Luis and the conflict in Marc to help the family but avoid being pulled into the dark world of drugs, guns and prostitution that his cousin found herself in.

And while the story is told in first person by Marc, the central character to the story is Luis. His motivations are sometimes clouded and his relentlessness in his pursuit felt disconcerting to me. I was uncertain if Luis was going to destroy himself and I felt Marc was uncertain as well. But this is the hallmark of a good story where you feel invested in seeing how it all turns out.

The Concrete Maze is a solid novel that shows that Torres can write excellent hard-boiled mysteries. I look forward to his next novel.

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