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The test of their endurance is Jimmy Tate, a local gangster, pimp and lowlife extraordinaire. Jimmy once ruled the streets but his empire is crumbling all around him as cops he once bribed to look the other way are closing his gambling establishments. And most humiliating of all, his most “prized possession” – the smart and beautiful Freddie – has secretly accumulated enough wealth from her earnings to leave him and take her children, including eight year-old Angela, with her. Young Angela is the only one of Freddie’s brood that is sired by Jimmy, and he alternates between parental pride and brutal exploitation as he uses Angela as a means to keep Freddie under his control. Jimmy’s vile affection for Freddie leads to a violent confrontation that sets off a chain of events that threatens to destroy them all.
I had several problems with the first half of this story. The awkward phrasing, overused expressions and unique word combinations left me scratching my head. The story meandered at times with events and one-appearance characters that contributed nothing significant to the story line and robbed what could have been a suspenseful buildup had there been a recurring theme to tie all the events together. Another problem for me was that some things just weren’t believable: Jimmy never tried to find out who was trying to bring him down. Ruby was admirable but too one-dimensional. I did like the author’s colorful street descriptions and could almost experience the sights, sounds and tastes. Also, with better character development, Angela could have been a fascinating study. She was a psychopath in training, as brutal and repugnant as she was heartbreaking.
The book redeems itself in the second half of the story, where the author seems to write with more confidence. The dialogue starts to flow once the street vernacular is dropped, and the characters become more complex and interesting. Here’s where the author more fully explains the relationships between the characters and events that led up to that fateful confrontation. She also reveals that things aren’t always what they appear to be. The final twist at the end of the story truly surprised me, which doesn’t happen often.
Two Kinds of Color might be for you if you like your novels “noir-ish” and gritty and aren’t put off by pervasive foul language and graphic violence. Because of the awkward writing in the first half of the story and the lack of a strong and cohesive theme, I’d give it 2 out of 4 stars.
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