In Prisoners of Hope, Amanda Doucette is in Georgian Bay researching outdoor adventure options for her charity when a wealthy doctor is murdered at his summer estate and his family’s Filipina nanny goes missing. Amanda had encountered the nanny shortly before her disappearance, and, concerned about her welfare, decides to enlist the help of her RCMP officer boyfriend to find the nanny.
The mystery itself is compelling. Amanda is a sympathetic character, and I like how passionate she is about helping people she perceives to be in need. This is the first book I’ve read by Barbara Fradkin, and I look forward to checking out more of her titles.
But more importantly, I really like that Fradkin’s characters confront the difficult realities of how undocumented immigrants in Canada are forced to survive. The nanny, Danielle, came to Canada to build a good life for her family back in the Philippines, but was kept a virtual prisoner by the doctor’s family, who kept her passport hidden and basically prevented her from leaving them. Her husband Fernando gets duped by a fake immigration lawyer in Manila, and ends up having to go underground when he and his son arrive in Canada. I love how realistically Fradkin depicts their stories, and how sympathetic she is for why they wouldn’t trust institutions like the RCMP to be looking out for their best interests. Fradkin also clearly did her research into contemporary Philippine politics, and I love how the situation with current Philippine president Duterte is mentioned as a major impetus for Danielle and Fernando to need to escape the country.
But the reason this book really resonated with me is that I especially love how Danielle wasn’t fully a victim nor an innocent saint. Too often, I’ve read stories where the main character — often Caucasian — has to rescue the Filipino character from a horrible situation, and the Filipino character is depicted as a figure of tragedy. There’s certainly a lot of tragedy and injustice in Danielle’s situation, but she’s also definitely a fighter. She makes some dubiously moral choices to survive and keep her family safe, and while her actions are understandable, not all of them are legally or even morally justifiable, and in one case, an innocent ends up dying because of her decisions. And while Danielle is uncomfortable with violence, she also acts in a way that leaves no doubt that she would hurt people if she had to, for her family to have a good life. All this to me makes her feel real, and I absolutely love that even though she’s offstage for most of the book, she’s still such a complex, multifaceted character.
I really enjoyed this book, and highly recommend it to mystery fans.
Thank you to Dundurn Press for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.