When someone opens a Barry Hoffman novel, they know the story and characters will leave a scar. Like Jack Ketchum and the best of Richard Laymon, Hoffman never shies away from the ugly side of humanity and the horrors they inflict upon one another. His novels, which include the stellar Eyes series, have always tackled tough subjects, and he continues the trend with this story, one that was influenced by the rash of sexual assaults on college campuses across the country in the past year.
However, this is much, much more than a “me too” reactionary novel. It’s an important story, of course, but the contents within will resonate with readers regardless of gender.
Cassidy McClure is a bright student on campus, a strong athlete who only wants the best that the university has to offer. One evening she is raped, and reaches out to the campus security to help her, to protect her, and help bring the rapist to justice.
Unfortunately, something nefarious occurs when she dials 911. She is led into a web of deception—and something much darker. The university covers up the crime in a variety of ways, as many do in actual life, offering Cassidy “help”—just not in the manner that will bring the man to justice. She begins to realize that her incident was only one of many, and the officials running the school harbor a dark conspiracy to bury several heinous crimes for the sake of the name of the school and protecting the young men who should be behind bars.
For those familiar with Hoffman’s books, the female protagonists are what drives the stories. He has penned some of the toughest, most wicked, ingenious, and powerful women (and girls) in thrillers and horror. If you are not familiar with them, go check them out right after Tracks of My Tears. They provide a touchstone for each book that rallies readers to their sides, sometimes a “Dirty Harry” type character, sometimes more a cerebral femme fatale such as Lisbeth Salander…yet the author’s characters are all his own.
Cassidy hires Asha Collins, an investigator from the DA’s office who is anything but predictable or conventional. Together, they piece together the mysteries, both of Cassidy’s attack and of the secrets that can bring down much more than those pulling the strings behind the curtains; criminals less obvious than the rapists who plague the campus.
Asha is badass, but different than the typical character in vengeance stories. Her story needs to be heard as well.
Readers will likely be entranced by Hoffman’s unobtrusive writing style, which renders the tough truths he spins out that much more powerful. The effects of Tracks of My Years are more than a gut punch. They’re a sucker punch to the jaw, a knee in the groin, a street fight where rules are tossed out the window. This is a strong novel and an important one.
Recommended, but not easy, reading for fans of strong thrillers and horror.