JOPLIN, Mo. —
"The Interrogation of Gabriel James." by Charlie Price, begins with the end: the second funeral in as many days, two young men dead, a father in handcuffs and one person to piece the whole story together, Gabriel James.
The Monday after the second funeral, Gabriel meets with a sheriff's deputy and a policeman. As Gabriel sits across the table from the deputy, he fears being charged with a crime and is determined to volunteer nothing. The interrogation begins.
A junior in high school, Gabriel is doing what he can to fit in and get by. He describes himself as an average guy but beneath that "a guy who knows the bottom,will fall out of everything he cares about, so don't get attached to anything or anyone."
His dad met another woman and moved out when Gabriel was in junior high and, before Gabriel stopped hating him, died in a car accident. So Gabe is working on not being empty anymore. He runs on the cross country team, joined choir, and has a part-time job and a girlfriend, Anita.
When things begin to happen around Billings, Gabe's hometown, they seem random. First is the fire at the Rims, then dogs go missing. Someone harasses the new star runner on the track team, Danny Two Bull, and drugs are sold to the mentally ill people who hang around the community center.
Things in Gabe's life change also when Anita breaks up with him and his friend Durmie is hurt. Durmie is a streetwise homeless guy who hangs around the community center and sees everything. Durmie is the one to tell Gabe about the drugs and that he's scared of the two thugs in a yellow car selling the drugs.
Gabe's mom is a social worker and he wants to tell her about the drugs when he has more information. When he goes back to Durmie to see what else he knows, he finds him bleeding from an apparent suicide attempt. With Durmie in the hospital and no one else talking, Gabe's focus shifts to other things.
Raelene Ray sits across from him,in English and one of his friends, Wib, says she likes Gabe. After some careful observation and a little bit of chat, Gabe is pretty sure Wib is right and asks her out. She not only turns him down and tells him she doesn't date, she also tells him they shouldn't talk anymore.
Puzzled as to why she turned him down and started to ignore him when he know she likes him, Gabe tries to find out more about Raelene. He follows her home from school and finds that her family lives in the Dell, an old commune outside of town. Still curious, he asks Raelene's friend Emily about her, but Emily isn't talking.
Still with no answers, he goes back to the Dell one night. However, when he gets to Raelene's porch and looks in, something he sees disturbs him and he leaves. He goes back to Emily for more information and help, because now his concern is not whether Raelene likes him but if she needs help.
As he tries to figure out if Raelene needs rescuing, the harassment of Danny Two Bull escalates, Gabe has a run-in with the drug dealers in the yellow car, and he finds out what is happening to the missing dogs.
Determined to figure out the mystery, Gabe inadvertently sets in motion an explosive, shocking confrontation that shakes the very foundation of his world.
Told through the interrogation and flashbacks, this fast-paced, intriguing thriller is well done. It can be found in the Teen Section of the library, along with Charlie Price's other book, "Dead Connection."
Patty Crane is a reference librarian for the Joplin Public Library.