Streets of Gold by Margot Kinberg

On the run…

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

Staci McKinney is a runaway, but she has good reason. She’s just fifteen and her new stepfather has been abusing her while her mother, desperate to make her marriage work, has been turning a blind eye. So now Staci is living rough, stealing food from bins and sleeping wherever she can find a bit of shelter from the freezing Philadephia winter. On this night she’s hiding under the overpass, shivering beneath the scant shelter of a plastic garbage bag, when she sees two men dumping what looks like a bundle of blankets. Once they’ve gone, she sneaks over, the thought of a bit of extra warmth too enticing to ignore. But just as she discovers that inside the roll of blankets is the body of a man, the two men return…

This novella-length story is a thriller rather than a mystery. The reader knows from the beginning who the two men are – City Councilman Daniel Langdon and his assistant and fixer, Scott Townlee – and we know how the victim died. There’s not much to connect Danny with the crime, so he and Scott thought that once they’d dumped the body they’d be safe. But now they know this homeless girl has seen them and they’re scared. They set out to track her down and though they deliberately don’t think further than that, it’s obvious there’s only going to be one foolproof way of silencing her…

Staci is scared too. She’s a smart kid, and tough, but she’s way out of her depth. She hasn’t been on the streets long enough to learn how to keep safe, or even just warm. And now she’s seen two men who she knows must be murderers, and she knows they saw her too. She soon becomes aware that Scott and Danny are hunting for her, and they have all the resources available to a City politician to help them in the search. Staci has to try to evade them while she figures out what to do…

My usual disclaimer: the author Margot Kinberg is a friend and fellow blogger. However, as always, I’ve done my best to be honest in this review, which happily is made much easier by the fact that I thoroughly enjoyed the book!

This is a great example of what I’m always banging on about – that books should be the right length to suit their content. The novella length is perfect for this one – any longer and it might have begun to feel bloated and probably unrealistic. At this length, it is tight and fast-paced which gives it a real sense of tension throughout and the short time-frame makes Staci’s attempts to stay hidden very credible.

Staci is shown very believably as having a strong character, but still being vulnerable because of her age and situation. She feels she can’t do what any of the rest of us would in that situation – go to the police – because as a runaway minor they would either return her to the home she’s running from, or put her into the care system. She’s heard all kinds of horrors about what happens to kids in care, probably exaggerated but she doesn’t know that. It seems to her she’s safer on the streets, even with these men chasing her. Scott is also well-drawn as the kind of fixer we’ve become used to seeing working for politicians in fiction and in real life, clearing up their messes without much concern for the ethics of it. Danny is perhaps the weakest of the characters – a couple of times I found myself close to the credibility line over his actions, finding it hard to see his motivations, but again the shorter length and fast pace stopped this from becoming a major problem.

Margot Kinberg

One of the things I especially liked is that Kinberg shows both sides of life on the streets. Staci meets with bad people for sure, especially men who see vulnerable girls as prey. But she also meets with kindness and generosity along the way – from something as simple as a casual stranger giving her some food to those involved in the many charities offering material and emotional support to street kids. We also see a kind of camaraderie among some of the rough sleepers, especially the women, trying to look out for each other where they can. These aspects prevent the story from becoming too bleak, and seemed very realistic to me. Kinberg also makes it clear that whatever the outcome for Staci there’s not going to be a magic wand to make it all go away – her experiences will have damaged her and she’s going to need help if she’s to survive and have a future to look forward to.

A tense, absorbing story that I gulped down in one evening, keen to know how it would all work out for Staci, and if the bad guys would get their due comeuppance. And it all leads up to an ending that I found satisfyingly realistic. A very enjoyable read!

Amazon UK Link

29 thoughts on “Streets of Gold by Margot Kinberg

  1. Sounds like a very good book and it’s nice to see shorter ones too. Sometimes it feels that the story would be much better if it was shorter, so I’m glad the author didn’t try to make it longer and lose the beauty of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I don’t mind a long book if there’s enough story to fill it, but so often it feels as if a third of it could be cut without losing anything. I much prefer to read a short, tightly plotted book like this one to a long flabby one, even if it’s well written.

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  2. Yay for such a great review of Margot’s book. I agree with Anca about book length. So many books seemed dragged beyond the stories told within their pages–probably to fit a word count set by the publisher.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, it’s great to be able to give a genuine glowing review to a friend’s book! 😀 I’d always much rather read a shorter tightly-plotted book like this than a long flabby one. Longer books are great when there’s enough story to fill them, but so often that isn’t the case.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Congrats, Margot, on earning FF’s 5-star review!! We’ve read her reviews long enough now to know she doesn’t hand out stars willy-nilly. I suspect many books would be better served if they didn’t have so much padding. I just finished one like that. It was the size of an encyclopedia, when the story to be told didn’t call for all that length. This sounds like a good read!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m so fortunate in my author friends – it’s always a pleasure to be able to give a genuine glowing review! 😀 (When’s your next one coming, btw? *taps foot impatiently*) Yes, I don’t mind a longer book when there’s enough story to fill it, but so often half of it is just flabby padding. I’d much rather read a shorter, more tightly-plotted book like this one.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I think this is going to have to join the book by Margot I already have waiting in my Kindle!

    I’m glad you enjoyed it, FF, and well done, Margot!

    Liked by 2 people

    • She’s written a few now and I always look forward to her new ones. I particularly enjoyed the length of this one – I’m so tired of bloated contemporary crime novels and think they nearly always work better when they’re shorter and tighter.

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    • Hurrah – hope you enjoy it! Yes, I liked that the homeless teenager aspect felt very realistic – it’s a subject that can either become too grim or too mawkish, but Margot gets the balance just about right.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Great review! Does this fall into the YA category for the U.S. market? In other words, is it from the point of view of the 15-yr old or is there an omniscient narrator? And does the tone of the book feel more adult-oriented?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Interesting question! It’s third person, but mostly from the girl’s perspective. I’m no expert in YA as you know, but I’d say it isn’t really written as YA but would certainly be suitable for teens of around Staci’s age – 14 and up. There’s nothing graphic in it that I’d be concerned about a mid-teen reading, and very little swearing. I hadn’t thought about till you asked, but yes, I think it might be an interesting read for YAs – Staci felt very realistic to me.

      Liked by 1 person

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