Beyond the comfort of our iPhones, Kindles, and smart TVs lies a grim world that we rarely, if ever, think about. It is the world of sex trafficking. Flesh for sale. If you’ve read Timothy Ballard’s Slave Stealers, which I highly recommend, you also know that it is one of the largest, fastest growing, most lucrative, horrifying industries on our entire planet.
These are not hardened women or shiny gigolos. These are children as young as five or six years old. Some are stolen, some are lured. All are deceived, sold, or auctioned off to the highest bidder. In the eyes of their captors they are simply chattel. A means to an end. A dollar sign with terrified eyes, but easily replaceable.
When I applied to read an advanced copy of The Record Keeper, by Charles Martin, I had no idea what lay ahead, yet I felt compelled to read the first two books in the Murphy Shepherd series before tackling the final installment. Little did I know I would be discovering an amazing author and a series that will stay with me forever.
Think of the novels as a jigsaw puzzle. The Water Keeper keeps those puzzle pieces relatively scattered, but organized enough to motivate the reader to pursue the second and third books. Our main character, Murphy Shepherd, is broken yet heroic. He is solitary but part of a network. He is spiritual but a man of action. Lots of action. He is also covert, compassionate, philanthropic, and mysterious.
But, above all, Murphy is selfless. His mentor, Bones, chose and trained him because of this specific quality. The person to be rescued is always, ALWAYS the first priority. Exhaustion, hunger, and even gaping wounds come second. We see examples of Murphy’s drive and skill in The Water Keeper. We also meet important characters whose lives will intertwine with our hero in the future.
In The Letter Keeper, we learn more about Murphy Shepherd’s backstory. More of the puzzle pieces come together with each rescue. We understand what drives him, his greatest loss, and his ultimate catharsis. Humble man that he is, even Murphy doesn’t realize the extent of his positive influence.
Last in the series is The Record Keeper, due out in July 2022. Before a shepherd is needed to rescue the sheep, there is the wolf that first endangers them. This wolf is the worst of the worst and he sold his soul long ago. But to pursue him we must first understand him. How did he become that way? There are always reasons.
I will admit, I had to take breaks with this series. It is intense. It is also beautifully written in an old-world style that forces our imaginations to do all the work. The way Charles Martin is able to craft such a bleak underbelly of society without graphic language or vulgar scenes shows his genius. He creates a brilliant balance of darkness and light. I highly, highly recommend these three books and very willingly give them a rare 10 Stars on this site. They are worth your time.
***It is impossible not to feel helpless when reading about this subject. Please take a moment to visit “real-life Murphy Shepherd,” Timothy Ballard’s site Operation Underground Railroad. They always need donations to fund their worldwide efforts to bring children home. Thank you.