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Alfie Carter | Book Review


BJ Mayo

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing 

Pages: 288 

Publication Date: January 19, 2021 

Genre: Southern Fiction / Rural Fiction / Mystery 

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The seemingly never-ending Cabinda War (1975—) has left multitudes dead in its wake and thousands of children homeless and orphaned.

Jackaleena N’denga, a young Angolan girl, has become the sole survivor of one specifically brutal village massacre carried out by a band of guerrilla boy-soldiers.

 Jackaleena’s resilience leads her to an orphanage on the west coast of Africa, known as Benguela by the Sea, where she and other children are taken in and protected. Her brilliant mind and endless questions capture the heart of her mentor, Margaret, who ensures her that her survival thus far—especially being the survivor from her village—must mean she has big things ahead of her. When the opportunity arises, she must find her purpose.  

Not without a plan, Jackaleena stows away on a mercy ship that has made its yearly visit to the orphanage and is now preparing to return to America. Her journey takes her across the ocean, into the arms of New York City’s customs officials, and finally into placement in a temporary foster home in Texas.  

Enter Alfie Carter—a workaholic, small-town detective who is also battling memories of his past. His life is forever changed when he meets a young African girl looking for her higher purpose.

Skyhorse Publishing

Alternating between the perspectives of Alfie and Jackaleena, this harrowing story recounts the separate lives of these two very different individuals that ultimately leads to to their eventual intersection in a very profound and touching manner. In what at first seems like two disparate stories, the depths of unimaginable pain and suffering weaves together into a slow-burning tale that celebrates faith, redemption, and love.

“Time has eased but not erased the pain.”

Alfie is a hardened detective, burdened by grief that has placed great strain on his marriage. He is stubborn and uncompromising, yet somehow his wife remains absolutely steadfast in her devotion to their union. Readers must remain objective in regards to their relationship. We are not asked to cast judgment; however, witnessing the beauty and grace of second chances crafts a powerful conclusion to their story. His first-person point of view provides an up close examination into the death case he is investigating. Contrary to the synopsis, Alfie’s quest to find the truth and bring justice is definitely the primary story.

While Jackaleena’s story begins when she is an adult, working as a prosecutor, it is her current case that triggers a flashback and the unfolding of her brutal and tragic past. In stark contrast to Alfie, Jackaleena’s early life is entirely oppressive and uncompromising, yet she is the true embodiment of resiliency and faith. Her third-person point of view acts as the buffer readers need to protect themselves from the emotional stress that results from the senseless depravity and violence Jackaleena endures. Everything this little girl has ever known has been ripped out from underneath her, yet she strives onward regardless of the consequence. There is only action, and thankfully, she finds herself in loving and positive arms throughout the course of her journey.

Alfie’s bravado and directness captures the swagger of a small town law enforcement official. Jackaleena’s beauty and curiosity showcases her innocence. Amidst the picturesque backdrop of their landscapes, readers are provided with the unique ability to walk together as the characters capture the devastation of lost potential with the sensitivity required to not lose all sense of humanity.

While slightly disjointed in its overall presentation and relying too heavily on clunky and awkward dialogue, the author has undoubtedly crafted an intense character study on the effects of trauma within an unsettling exploration of good and evil.

3.5 stars.

BJ Mayo was born in an oil field town in Texas. He spent the first few years of his life living in a company field camp twenty-five miles from the closest town. His career in the energy industry took him to various points in Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Louisiana, Bangladesh, Australia, and Angola West Africa. He and his wife were high school sweethearts and have been married for forty-six years with two grown children. They live on a working farm near San Angelo, Texas

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