The Trench Angel

Written by Michael Keenan Gutierrez
Review by Jeff Westerhoff

Photographer Neal Stephens returns to Colorado in 1919 after taking pictures of the men who fought in the trenches of World War I. A sheriff who has been blackmailing the town’s citizens, including Neal because of his secret marriage to a black woman in France, is murdered. Both Neal and his sister, Tillie, become suspects. Their father, Jesse Stephens, an anarchist who is thought to be living in Europe, remains a suspect in the killing of the sheriff’s father several years earlier.

Haunted by the possible death of his wife in France, and his memories of the trenches, Neal is drawn into a coal miners’ strike against his rich uncle. Then a worker in the mine is erroneously arrested and hanged for killing the sheriff. This execution enrages the miners even more. It isn’t long until Neal’s father arrives in Colorado to complicate matters.

This novel highlights 1920s America, with its racial injustice, anarchists wanting to change the world, rich men’s control of small towns, and family divisions occurring over generations. The author pools these very complex issues and people together into a gripping story. The unraveling plot fills the novel with suspense. Be prepared to become immersed in the life of Neal Stephens as he tries to find himself while dealing with his dysfunctional family.