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Trophy Murders – Sue Julsen

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Trophy Murders by Sue Julsen

Publisher: Outskirts Press

Sarah Freedman has lived her whole life in fear. From the moment she turned three, when her father abducted her, used her for his own gratification, Sarah never felt safe just alone. Sarah was taught to lie, cheat and steal in order to please her father and not be the object of his wrath. Her father enjoyed the company of many women who for the most part were warm and kind to Sarah. Until Janet. Janet was her nightmare and even more. She became her stepmother and Sarah became her ticket to punching bag and her meal ticket. No matter how hard Sarah tried to please this horrific woman and begged her father not to leave her alone with her, her words fell on deaf ears. Not until he finally realized that he could not deal with Janet anymore and did not want to support another child did they leave. When things became difficult her father would wake her in the middle of the night to leave but not before stealing valuables and money from whatever women they were living with at the time.

But Sarah’s troubles were far from over, even when her Uncle Henry used all of his police contacts and finally brought her back home to her mother. Violet became so distraught after she went missing that she could no longer handle life, became an alcoholic and for the few months that she got to reconnect with her daughter she never really appreciated her or her life. Violet had an untimely death, leaving Sarah in the custody of her grandparents and later her mother’s brother, Uncle Henry. Offering to care for her and adopt her, he and his wife Olivia agreed to become her parents. But, Olivia is no better than Janet or anyone else that she ever lived with. As a matter of fact, her aunt is unforgiving, cruel, abusive, mean and really hates Sarah because she considers her a carbon copy of her father, a man she barely remembers. Sarah should feel safe but does not. She harbors many fears and often awakens in a cold sweat or has terrible nightmares of a woman that was mutilated and hurt. Even her uncle cannot console her when Olivia is around. Every move she makes is criticized, shunned and ridiculed.

Moving to Munday, Texas was supposed to give Sarah the feeling of security she deserved and taking the job as Chief of Police Henry thought would benefit the town and his family. But, Olivia was cold, mean and cruel. From the author of Bitter Memories comes Trophy Murders as Sarah’s story continues.

From the moment Sarah came to live with her uncle and aunt nothing changed just the location of where they lived. Although her uncle tried to create a nurturing and loving environment for Sarah, he did not succeed. Every step of the way Olivia set up roadblocks, found many reasons and excuses to beat Sarah and inflict pain and injury on her almost like she was taking some sadistic pleasure in doing it. When Sarah is forced to hold her hand on the way to school and wear the ugliest dress her aunt could find, she is ridiculed by her, slapped for no reason and then laughed at by the girls in her school. When some of them attack her and start calling her names, Sarah fights back.

Although the Principal of the school understands her situation she cannot stop what happens next even though she tells her aunt she was just defending herself against a group of mean girls. Her aunt would not even listen when told she was not at fault and lashed out at her so brutally and cruelly that I could feel every smack, hit and lash she received. Child abuse is wrong and there is never a reason to hit anyone especially to the point where you might put him or her in the hospital. Yet, Olivia got away with her abuse even though Henry knew and saw what she did and the school did too. Why didn’t anyone stop her?

Henry Frye as Chief of Police could get called at any time. When he learns of the murder of two elderly people and sees the horrific things done to them he realizes this is just the tip of the iceberg and feels that more murders will follow. A gang has just moved into a big on the hill could it be just a coincidence that so many murders occurred and were they the ones responsible? A young boy is the next victim.

Mutilated, sodomized, butchered and beaten, even Officer O’Malley did not want to face this again. Looking at the young boy who was once a happy young man, Henry sees something in the eyes of the child, which is more than frightening. Fear! Imagine knowing that you were going to be killed. But, this child was not the only one killed that day an elderly woman was murdered in the house too and her heart and liver removed. Trophy murders. Organs used as rewards or considered trophies for the killer’s to savor and keep as remembrances of their work. Then another murder and a possible witness but not before Olivia threatens Sarah again and this time the end result is much worse. When the Principal saw what she did to Sarah why didn’t she do something about it? Why let her go home to more of the same?

Another murder but this time more brutal and horrific as Henry allows the reader to learn about his lover Mona and when he arrives him seeing Sarah sets him on fire. What he finally says to Olivia and his confrontation hopefully will change things but nothing would soften the heart of stone and steel. Sarah feels alone and unwanted and because Olivia claims no one else wants and she believes her making it worse. As she recounts the beating and her family history to Miss Adams you can feel the relief in her voice yet the fear in her heart when she speaks of her aunt and her father. What would she do with this information? Legally she had to report the abuse. But, some punishments are more painful than a smack. Some are so vicious they play on your mind and you never forget them as Olivia verbally abuses and insults Sarah, Miss Adams wallows in her guilt and quandary over what to do and her Uncle Henry warns her to be careful. Every step of the way she suffers and the end does not seem to be near as she relates more about her father to Miss Adams and yet no one has done anything to stop her pain.

The body count was rising and the end did not seem in sight as Henry’s old police captain comes to see him. Discussing Sarah’s father and going to see him about a murder might clear up her dreams as the vision that is described is exactly what she sees in her nightmares. Added into the mix is Sarah’s desire to write a sci-fi storyin order to escape Olivia and have something meaningful to do.

When Henry has to go out of town to check on Eli he reunites with Mona the one woman he really loves and needs. But, no matter how hard Sarah tries Olivia is steadfast in her ways and remains hardened to this precious child. But, Sarah is not the only one that has been victimized as we hear Mona’s voice and listen to her story we realize that she and Sarah just might have something in common and that Henry deserves more than Olivia can give.

When Henry visits Eli in prison the startling confessions and one revelation will definitely give you chills. Returning home he is greeted by more murders, the injury of a dear friend permanently in a coma and the death of three of the gang members. But, who is behind the killings of the elderly? Who is this new friend that Sarah made? What about the kills that were suspended for a month? What about Olivia and her threats?

A town riddled with crime and each person whose voice you hear besides Sarah’s consumed with his/her own grief, problems and reflections that no one sees the torment that one young girl or fear reflected in Sarah’s face. An uncle who loves her but needs to solve the horrific string of murders and who is dealing with his passion and feelings for another woman. One aunt so filled with hate and the fear of loving one young girl named Sarah who through it all is honest, straightforward and whose friendship anyone should value.

Why don’t they? When the past comes flooding through and many truths come out what will the final result be for Sarah? Will anyone come to realize how special she is and how amazing she can be?

Will the Trophy murders be solved? An ending so heartbreaking, horrific and frightening you know that there is much more before all is said and done. What happens to bring closure to some issues leave open wounds in others and much more pain. Will the author tell the rest at another time and will she bring back Sarah and her final chapter? One sad town filled with hate, unhappiness and sorrow and one young girl just fighting to be loved and seen. Trophy Murders: Trophies are to be displayed. Trophies are to be honored. Sarah Freedman was not anyone’s trophy so why did her aunt almost make her one. Told in a straightforward and graphic manner this book shares the inner most thoughts of the author, the characters, the mistakes of the educators and others who turned a somewhat blind eye to one young girl whose silent cries only wanted to be heard.

This is a must read for all educators, administrators, doctors, nurses, pastors, adults and friends to know if you see something that is wrong

Report it.

Reviewer: Fran Lewis

 

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