By Your Side

Book Review: Clarence Brown's NEEDS

Baltimore homicide detective, Brenda Washington, has an uncanny psychic ability.   While investigating a crime scene, she does not merely experience a vision of the tragic events, but falls into a trance and reenacts their physical movements while speaking in the voices of both perpetrator and victim.   It is a discomfiting vision to all but her partner, Al Grimes.

Al is accustomed to Brenda’s gift and, in fact, has grown reliant on it.  More often than not, it delivers results.   They have a remarkable arrest rate.

It just so happens that Al has also been in love with Brenda for quite some time—which is why it hurts him so deeply when he learns that his partner is also a heroin addict.

Brenda has been buying from an east side dealer named Julius on a regular basis.  At first, she is able to hide her addiction, but as time passes, her behavior begins to change and Al is the first to notice.

Meanwhile, Julius begins to fall to his own addiction and begins a spree of brutal murders and rapes around Baltimore and surrounding suburbs.   Eventually, he learns that Brenda is a cop and decides to make her his next target.

Al begins to dedicate time to helping Brenda overcome her addiction and finally recommends her to counseling while their supervisor, Lieutenant Holmes, orders her to detox as soon as they solve the current spate of homicides.

Of course, Brenda is reluctant to attend counseling at first, afraid to reveal the inner pain that started her down the road to addiction, a road that leads back into her childhood.

Will Brenda overcome her addiction before losing herself and the love of her partner?   More importantly, will she and Al be able to stop Julius before Brenda ends up in a body bag?

Clarence Brown, a recovered heroin addict, calls out the gritty depths of inner city Baltimore as only one with experience can.   He holds nothing back in his dialogue and narrative, presenting a raw, honest and fast-paced crime drama while also relating the devastating effects of addiction on mind, body and spirit.

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