Melissa Scrivner Love
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Crown Publishing Group
Release Date
March 2017
Mainstream fiction

The Crenshaw Six are a small but up-and-coming gang in South Central LA who have recently been drawn into an escalating war between rival drug cartels. To outsiders, the Crenshaw Six appear to be led by a man named Garcia . . . but what no one has figured out is that the gang's real leader (and secret weapon) is Garcia's girlfriend, a brilliant young woman named Lola.

Lola has mastered playing the role of submissive girlfriend, and in the man's world she inhabits she is consistently underestimated. But in truth she is much, much smarter--and in many ways tougher and more ruthless--than any of the men around her, and as the gang is increasingly sucked into a world of high-stakes betrayal and brutal violence, her skills and leadership become their only hope of survival.

An astonishing debut crime thriller about an unforgettable woman who combines the genius and ferocity of Lisbeth Salander with the ruthless ambition of Walter White. Lola marks the debut of a hugely exciting new thriller writer, and of a singular, magnificent character unlike anyone else in fiction.

Book Review by BJ (reviewer)
Jul 15, 2017   [ OFFICIAL REVIEW ]
74 people found the following review helpful
4 "Who's the Boss?" Stars.

Warning: As I read a lot of romance titles, I think it's important to note from the start that this is not a romance title--it's a general fiction/thriller title....

Proving that society's prejudices are not solely reserved for women in typical professional careers that experience glass ceilings, LOLA explores a side of society that most of its readers have likely never seen or perhaps even wondered about: women's roles and influence in street gangs in LA.

In particular this book explores how a woman leader (Lola) can fly under the radar even after being the one calling the shots of a smaller gang (the "Crenshaw Six") that controls the distribution of drugs in six corners of Huntington Park (a predominantly Mexican-American, lower socioeconomic suburb of Los Angeles) for years. The other members of the gang include Lola's little brother (who she views more as a mother would a child given she practically raised him due to their drug-addicted mother's neglect), her boyfriend (Garcia--who everyone incorrectly assumes is the true leader of the gang), and two other more secondary level characters (Marcos and Jorge).

As the gang toes the line between being small and insignificant to growing larger and gaining the attention of the Mexican Cartel (previously they were small enough that their drug pipeline had come from interactions with middle men), times and the level of danger the Crenshaw Six attract is changing for the gang. In particular things come to a head when the Cartel recruits Lola's gang for a drug distribution deal gone wrong. As Lola finds herself racing the clock to locate the cash/drugs gone missing, she finds her gang and her life on the line. To outsmart the various factions with some skin in the game, including the Cartel, a high-level, white distributor, the nearby African American drug dealing gang, a dirty cop, and a district attorney with questionable motivations, she must be at the top of her game and prove that you should never underestimate a smart and ruthless woman. But will she be triumphant in the end and who in this laundry list of people is she best served aligning herself with?

One of the things I enjoyed about this crime thriller is the multi-dimensional nature of the story. A secondary story line overarching the suspense arc is Lola's seeming weakness for "children"--an admittedly feminine trait. Though she has no children of her own, Lola keeps finding herself protecting other children that she informally adopts. First we see her constantly wavering between wanting to protect her little brother but also needing to lead by example and therefore having to punish him for his various mistakes. Additionally, Lola although a drug-dealer and a killer is not heartless. Perhaps the strongest showing of her humanity and compassion is a little girl who she takes under her wing. Seeing that the five year old's mother had been using and allowing the abuse of her own daughter to support her habit, Lola takes justice into her own hands and determines to raise the child herself. But perhaps a mother's most vulnerable weakness is her unwavering need to protect her children above all else. Will Lola's desire to protect her bother and the little girl end up being the Achilles heal that finally leads to her and the Crenshaw Six's downfall?

What a fantastic debut novel by Melissa Scrivner Love. I loved the fresh perspective and focus, and the story kept me engage and intrigued throughout. I can't wait to read more by Ms. Love who has showed great promise with this novel.
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