Colin Byrne is a pickpocket, an artist, and an occasional consultant for the police. He’s also an ex-felon, an initiate into the feral, unspoken magic that only prisoners know: how to vanish, how to tell fortunes, how to steal souls. Now the man who put him in prison wants him to return to Railburg State Correctional Facility to help investigate a case.
Some things at Railburg haven’t changed. His protégé Noel is still the best ink artist in the prison, and their mentor Gutierrez still talks to God. The gangs are still the ones with all the power. But some things are different: there’s a young Blood named Laney who sees demons, and an inmate Colin helped to imprison is poisoning Railburg’s food. With mysterious forces aiming to incite a prison riot and the Aryan Brotherhood constantly harassing Laney, Colin has bigger problems than the one he went to Railburg to solve…
“Trace is a masterpiece of magical realism [….] I fell in love with this book particularly for the depth of its characters and the genuine relationships between them.” — Word Vagabond
“…a very harsh, gritty reality meets seamlessly with the intrusion of quiet–but not necessarily small–magics. The author brings the world inside Railburg to life with strong descriptions and a subtle touch.” — Aging Backwards
“Sam has a very particular way of writing characters in such a way that they feel like the best things about real people. Not actual real people, because I don’t think real people end up being this interesting when you look this closely into events in their lives, but the kind of fictional reality that you feel in a Neil Gaiman or John Green novel — the idealized personhood.” — The Odd Orchard
“This guy…” Colin added, tapping the photograph in front of him. Joseph craned his neck slightly. “Galano.”
“Who’s Galano?” another detective asked.
“He’s a serial killer,” Colin answered.
“That’s conjecture. He was never convicted of homicide,” Joseph corrected.
“He’s linked to at least four murders we know of,” someone offered.
“He went down for theft,” Joseph said firmly.
“He killed – ” Colin’s left hand clenched into a fist; he forced himself to stop and relax, before he gave the whole game away. “He tortured a man to death. I testified at his trial.”
“I remember.” Joseph nodded. He’d called Colin in to consult on the case six months back, because he knew a little bit about the counterfeiting operation Galano had been running. Colin hadn’t expected murder, or what he found later – after the trial, after Galano’s sentencing – when he dug into Galano’s past.
Joseph had reason to remember Galano, too. He’d been the one standing next to Colin, one hand resting soothingly on his back, getting Colin’s puke on his shoes after they saw the body Galano had left behind. They both knew what Galano was capable of, even if Joseph refused to hold the killing to him without legal proof.
“The court says he’s not guilty of murder,” Joseph said.
In the photograph, Galano’s lips suddenly twitched upwards in a smirk. Colin inhaled sharply through his nose, fighting the urge to start backwards. He stacked the other photos and shoved them into the folder, closing it, keeping his hand on top of it as if it might fly open again.
Trace is available for sale through Lulu.com, and can also be found as an ePub at Lulu.