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by Stephen Amidon
Celadon, January 2023
328 pages
ISBN: 1250844231

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Locust Lane is a street in a wealthy American suburb, the kind of place inhabited by families who have made it and know it. Violence never happens in Locust Lane, at least not the kind of violence that ever makes the news. Of course, the kids aren't all right. The entitled, bored teenagers of this socioeconomic haven are into drugs, aimlessness, bullying, and violence. The adults (the lane's buzzing, ravenous locusts?) surrounding them cling to hopeless marriages and lost dreams. When a troubled young woman turns up dead in the house where she was staying with friends, the adults suspects each others' children: violent, sadistic Jack, wayward Hannah, and Christopher, the unpopular son of the town's alienated, fascinating Byronic hero, Lebanese-American chef Michel.

The most sympathetic character is Michel. He owns the town's only good restaurant, wishes he owned the building, too, and is more traumatised by his childhood survival of war in Beirut than he wishes to admit. He has a secret love, the wife of a prosperous neighbor who has a reckless streak and a desire to help him that might not prove so helpful.

With Eden's death (for that is the girl murder victim's name, of course), Michel's American paradise is threatened. One of the other adults, his secret lover, tries to help him and Christopher and makes things worse. Is the American Dream a lie? Will privilege always trump justice? What evil lurks in the heart of the suburbs? And is Christopher in fact guilty, and if not, who is? LOCUST LANE explores these questions. Furthermore, to Amidon's credit, the answers are not easy. There is not one perpetrator and a roomful of innocent people. All of the subdivision is in some sense responsible, not only for Eden's death but for the development of all the young people in variously twisted, ugly ways.

It is a cliche that suburbia hides various types of crime and injustice. In LOCUST LANE, Amidon not only demonstrates that point, but asks some very important questions about how American culture obstructs justice on a regular basis. The result is a riveting, memorable read.

Rebecca Nesvet is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay and co-edits Reviewing the Evidence.

Reviewed by Rebecca Nesvet, December 2022

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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