Broken Places: is about family, the ones you make and the ones that surprise you

Broken places book review

What is this about?: Cass, a former cop, becomes determined to find the person who killed Father Ray, the only man who has actually been a father to her.

What else is this about?: It’s a wonderful introduction to Cass, the complexities of her character and the people around that make her who she is.


Former cop Cass Raines has found the world of private investigation a less stressful way to eke out a living in the Windy City. But when she stumbles across the dead body of a respected member of the community, it’s up to her to prove a murderer is on the loose .

Cops can make mistakes, even when they’re not rookies. If anyone knows that it’s Cass Raines, who took a bullet two years ago after an incompetent colleague screwed up a tense confrontation with an armed suspect. Deeply traumatized by the incident, Cass resigned from the Chicago PD, leaving one less female African-American on the force. Now she’s the head of a one-woman private investigation agency, taking on just enough work to pay the bills. She spends the rest of her time keeping an eye on the tenants in her little Hyde Park apartment building, biking along the lakefront, and playing chess with the only father figure she’s ever known, Father Ray Heaton.

When Father Ray asks Cass to look into a recent spate of vandalism at his church, she readily agrees to handle the case. But only hours later she’s horrified to discover his murdered body in the church confessional, a dead gangbanger sprawled out nearby. She knew Pop, as she called him, had ticked off plenty of people, from slumlords to drug dealers and even some parishioners and politicians, with his uncompromising defense of the downtrodden. But a late-night random theft doesn’t seem like much of a motive at a cash-strapped parish like Saint Brendan’s.

The lead detective assigned to the case is all too ready to dismiss it as an interrupted burglary gone awry, just another statistic in a violent city. But Cass’s instincts tell her otherwise, and badge or no badge, she intends to see justice done . . .

Broken Places is about Cass, a former cop and now PI, who begins to investigate the murder of her father figure — Father Ray (Pops), a priest at her church. She finds him murdered, along with a young boy in the church.

Her nemesis, the man who caused her to leave the force years before, is assigned to the case and he is certain that it is an open and shut case.

In addition to this mystery, Broken Places is about family — the family Cass found in the wake of her mother’s death and father’s abandonment. Clark skilfully integrates the case and Cass’ past and paints the picture of a determined woman who is fiercely loyal to her friends.

Pops is the single greatest influence in her life, and his loss consumes her. Interestingly, her case takes her to a family with different issues, exploring the theme of what lies behind even the most picture-perfect family.

And in the middle of all this, her real father comes back, looking to re-establish his relationship with her. He is there to ask forgiveness for leaving her, and fully accepts responsibility for what he did. 

Another part of the theme family explored is the one she made in the force, and who betrayed her.

Broken Places is the story of family — the ones that betray you, that dissappoint you, and who’ll help you bury a dead body (or follow a suspect) without too many questions. It’s about the family who will love you unconditionally, and will have your back no matter what.

This is a story of complex characters and relationships wrapped around an engrossing case.


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