The Cradle Robbers

( 1 )

Overview

The new Mommy Track Mystery from the national bestselling author of Murder Plays House.

Ayelet Waldman's one-of-kind sleuth tracks the mysterious whereabouts of a missing infant to a widespread, top-secret puzzle that's nothing to play with.

Read More Show Less
... See more details below
Paperback (Mass Market Paperback - Reprint)
$7.99
BN.com price
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (30) from $1.99   
  • New (8) from $1.99   
  • Used (22) from $1.99   
The Cradle Robbers

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$7.99
BN.com price

Overview

The new Mommy Track Mystery from the national bestselling author of Murder Plays House.

Ayelet Waldman's one-of-kind sleuth tracks the mysterious whereabouts of a missing infant to a widespread, top-secret puzzle that's nothing to play with.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
In The Cradle Robbers, the sixth Mommy-Track mystery featuring a lovable defense attorney turned stay-at-home mom and part-time detective, Juliet Applebaum is faced with her most heartrending case yet: a mother whose newborn baby has been stolen.

When Juliet hears from her office assistant a story about an incarcerated woman whose infant son has been allegedly kidnapped by a questionable foster care agency, her conscience tells her to investigate even though her potential client is penniless, serving a lengthy prison term, and a recovering drug addict. After talking with the imprisoned mother, Sandra Lorgeree, Juliet -- with her four-month-old daughter, Sadie, in tow -- begins to sort out the woman's shadowy past. It turns out that Sandra's drug-addicted boyfriend belongs to a prominent San Francisco family that has essentially excommunicated him. When Sandra is suddenly stabbed to death in prison, Juliet vows to find the cradle robbers…

Besides the witty titles, Waldman's Mommy-Track novels (Nursery Crimes, The Big Nap, A Playdate with Death, et al.) are remarkable in large part because of their protagonist's utter authenticity. Yes, married couples with kids struggle with intimacy issues. Yes, working mothers all over the world have to deal with sleep deprivation, dirty diapers, breast pumps, spittle on their work clothes, daycare, etc. And that's why these novels are so utterly readable: Anyone with children will be able to relate to Juliet and her daily dilemmas. Throw in some great whodunit plotlines and you've got yourself a truly entertaining mystery series -- baby wipes and sippy cups not included. Paul Goat Allen
Marilyn Stasio
Juliet's smart sleuthing exposes some ugly truths about the parental rights of women in prison, but the way she maintains her sense of humor while juggling detective chores and baby duty is awesome.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Juliet Applebaum, ex-public defender and "self-employed mother," juggles the demands of her oversized four-month-old daughter and a case involving a female prisoner in her engrossing sixth outing (after 2004's Murder Plays House). Sandra Lorgeree, an inmate of California's isolated Dartmore prison, has surrendered her baby to foster care only to discover that the baby and the foster parents have disappeared. When Sandra is brutally murdered, Juliet is convinced that her death is not just the result of prison violence. While sleep-deprived Juliet schleps through L.A. and Northern California in search of the truth and Sandra's missing baby, her husband deals with his own legal problems, making for a less than blissful existence at their quirky home in the Hollywood hills. Waldman, herself a former public defender, vividly portrays life on the street and behind prison walls. Human and credible characters-in particular, a smart, sensitive sleuth-lift a mystery that should delight committed fans and attract new ones. Agent, Mary Evans. (Aug.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Just what p.i. Juliet Applebaum needed to make her Mommy-Track Mystery series (Murder Plays House, 2004, etc.) complete: a pair of babies. Sandra Lorgeree has not seen her son since the day he was born. In California, prisoners lose their parental rights if they can't arrange custody of their children within six months. Sandra's sentence for heroin possession runs 15 months, much too long for her to reclaim Noah. So she's left him with the Lambs of the Lord, an agency that places children in temporary foster care until their parents can care for them. But there's a problem: A foster family from the Lambs has simply made off with Noah, and Sandra is frantic to find out what's become of him. The night Juliet agrees to help Sandra, Sandra is killed by an inmate. Now Juliet must track down Noah herself. With her four-month-old, Sadie, attached at the hip, Juliet investigates, leaving a trail of milk and diapers in her wake. Juliet negotiates each dead end with her customary humor and grace. But beneath her dependably tart mommy-track wisecracks is her saddest case yet.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780425206171
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/5/2006
  • Series: Mommy-track Series, #6
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 991,144
  • Product dimensions: 4.12 (w) x 6.71 (h) x 0.79 (d)

Meet the Author

Ayelet Waldman

Ayelet Waldman currently lives with her writer-husband Michael Chabon and four children.

Biography

Some writers make it all look too easy. Take Ayelet Waldman, for example. The first novel she ever wrote -- heck, the first piece of creative writing she ever attempted -- was not only published, but it launched the successful Mommy-Track mystery series. Six years and eight novels later, Waldman is still wowing fans and critics alike while occasionally moving into more serious territory.

Waldman is most famous for her witty Mommy-Track mysteries, which follow the adventures of Juliet Applebaum. Like her creator, Juliet Applebaum is a former-public defender now playing the role of stay-at-home mom Unlike Waldman, Juliet breaks up her days of parenting with a little amateur sleuthing on the side. Waldman explained the origin of her beloved series during an interview at UC Berkley in 2004. "They grew out of this period in my life when I had left the public defender's office and I was staying home; I started writing them to keep myself entertained."

The novel that Waldman essentially wrote on a self-entertaining lark -- Nursery Crimes -- became the first in a series of lighthearted mysteries that clearly struck a chord among the writer's peers. "I think they kind of hit the market at a time that there were a lot of women like me," Waldman explained. "A lot of ex-lawyers, ex-doctors, ex-CEOs of companies who were finding themselves straight from the boardroom to the sandbox and kind of going crazy, so there was a ready audience for people who were not necessarily all that fulfilled by making homemade play-dough, but nonetheless realized where they were gonna be for the next couple of years."

After the initial four books in the Mommy-Track series (which included such tongue-in-cheek titles as The Big Nap and A Playdate With Death), Waldman decided to use her newfound literary success as an opportunity to try her hand at a non-series novel. "The more I wrote," she said, "the more I realized that [writing] was something that I really loved to do and I wanted to do more with it. I wanted to grow as a writer and I wanted to start writing more serious fiction." Daughter's Keeper, a tale that sheds some critical light on the War on Drugs, revealed that she was more than capable of handling heavier subject matter. As Publishers Weekly noted: "Waldman's passion and affection for her characters shines through."

Having broken into a new realm of writing, Waldman then delivered two more installments in the Juliet Applebaum adventures before penning her second non-series novel. Like all of her previous works, Love and Other Impossible Pursuits addresses Waldman's favorite subject, motherhood, but this time around she also touches on the grittier issues of grief and death. Once again, Waldman's foray outside of her popular series has proved a resounding success. In Chelsea Cain's laudatory review in The New York Times, she described Love and Other Impossible Pursuits as "a romantic, shocking and sometimes painful page-turner does the unthinkable: it actually says something new and interesting about women, families and love."

While more Mommy-Track mysteries are likely on the way from the prolific Waldman, the side roads she has taken thus far confirm that she is a writer willing to defy expectations.

In addition...
Waldman is also noted for the controversy that followed the publication of her 2005 essay "Motherlove." The essay, first published in the anthology Because I Said So: 33 Mothers Write About Children, Sex, Men, Aging, Faith, Race and Themselves, sparked a heated national debate about the nature of love, marriage, and motherhood.

Good To Know

Some interesting outtakes from our interview with Waldman:

"My children are my inspiration. I write about mothers, and about maternal ambivalence. No matter what I set out to do, it seems, I end up writing about that. My four kids have veto power on anything I write about them, but the only time it's ever been exercised is when my eight-year-old told me never to write about breastfeeding him ever again, as long as he and I both walked the earth."

"My husband and I both edit one another's work. Nothing leaves the house that the other hasn't gone over with a fine-toothed comb.

"Nursery Crimes, my first murder mystery, was the first piece of fiction -- the first piece of creative writing -- I ever did.

"I have no hobbies, other than reading. I love to read, and on my web site I keep a log of every book I read, along with a few words about the book and about what I thought. Check it out at www.ayeletwaldman.com

Read More Show Less
    1. Hometown:
      Berkeley, California
    1. Date of Birth:
      December 11, 1964
    2. Place of Birth:
      Jerusalem, Israel
    1. Education:
      Wesleyan University, 1986; Harvard Law School, 1991
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

“Customary humor . . . dependable tart mommy-track wisecracks.”

Kirkus Reviews

“Fabulous.”

Midwest Book Review

“Human and credible characters—in particular, a smart, sensitive sleuth . . . should delight committed fans and attract new ones.”

Publishers Weekly

“Waldman always provides full-bodied characters, humor, and a socially conscious plot that entertains as it enlightens.”

—Booklist

“Well-plotted . . . Juliet is a wonderful invention, warm, loving, and sympathetic to those in need, but unintimidated by the L.A. entertainment industry she must enter to search for clues . . . What a motive, what a resolution, and how clever of Juliet to figure it out.”

Publishers Weekly

“The Mommy-Track Mysteries get progressively feistier and wittier.”

Midwest Book Review

“As always, Waldman uses humor to portray the Los Angeles scene while making some serious points about what is really important in life. This thoroughly modern cozy will be popular.”

—Booklist

“Witty Waldman is so endearingly pro-kid that you may run right out and get pregnant, and so unsparing about Hollywood sylphs and pro-anorexia websites that you may never diet again.”

Kirkus Reviews

“Juliet and her patient husband make an appealing couple—funny, clever, and loving (but never mawkish). Waldman has an excellent ear for the snappy comeback, especially when delivered by a five-year-old.”

Publishers Weekly

“Waldman is at her witty best when dealing with children, carpooling, and first-trimester woes, but is no slouch at explaining the pitfalls of False Memory Syndrome either.”

Kirkus Reviews

“Think Chinatown, but with strollers and morning sickness. Arguably the best of Waldman’s mysteries.”

Long Island Press

“Smoothly paced and smartly told.”

The New York Times Book Review

“Sparkling . . . Witty and well-constructed . . . Those with a taste for lighter mystery fare are sure to relish the adventures of this contemporary, married, mother-of-two Nancy Drew.”

Publishers Weekly

“[A] deft portrayal of Los Angeles’s upper crust and of the dilemma facing women who want it all.”

—Booklist

“Waldman treats the Los Angeles scene with humor, offers a revealing glimpse of Hasidic life, and provides a surprise ending . . . An entertaining mystery with a satirical tone.”

—Booklist

“Juliet Applebaum is smart, fearless, and completely candid about life as a full-time mom with a penchant for part-time detective work. Kinsey Millhone would approve.”

Sue Grafton, author of the Kinsey Millhone Mysteries

“[Juliet is] a lot like Elizabeth Peters’s warm and humorous Amelia Peabody—a brassy, funny, quick-witted protagonist.”

Houston Chronicle

“A delightful debut filled with quirky, engaging characters, sharp wit, and vivid prose.”

Judith Kelman, author of After the Fall

“[Waldman] derives humorous mileage from Juliet’s ‘epicurean’ cravings, wardrobe dilemmas, night-owl husband, and obvious delight in adventure.”

Library Journal

Berkley Prime Crime Books by Ayelet Waldman

NURSERY CRIMES

THE BIG NAP

A PLAYDATE WITH DEATH

DEATH GETS A TIME-OUT

MURDER PLAYS HOUSE

THE CRADLE ROBBERS

THE

CRADLE
ROBBERS

Ayelet Waldman

Table of Contents

One

NINE years ago, in preparation for my third date with Peter, I schlepped out to Queens on two subways and a bus in order to borrow a black lace bra from my friend Cindy Rappaport. And now? Now I couldn’t even be bothered to scrape the baby spit-up off my T-shirt before crawling into bed. If my husband’s hand had accidentally brushed against those parts of my body once seductively draped in expensive French lace, I would probably have chewed it off. I love Peter, I really do. It was only because I’m so crazy about him that I was at all concerned that our matrimonial bed had become as arid as the Oklahoma Dust Bowl. I understood the reasons for the drought, but I was far too drained and exhausted to miss the rain. At four months old, Sadie, our third child, weighed in at nineteen pounds. I realize that only other mothers of freakishly sized children have the infant growth charts burned into the insides of their eyelids, so let me provide a translation: Sadie was officially off the charts. So far off, in fact, that the nurses in our Los Angeles pediatrician’s office recalibrated the scales every time we came for an appointment, positive there was some mistake. The baby had done nothing but nurse since she was born, and her need for constant access to my body meant that my husband was obliged to keep his hands to himself. His hands, and everything else.

“Don’t even think of touching me,” I said as Peter leaned in for a kiss. Then I pasted an insincere smile to my face. “I mean, gosh, honey, I’m just so tired tonight.”

“So what else is news?” Peter said, sighing.

Before our current romantic crisis, I had assumed that I was the source, from both the nature and nurture sides, of my children’s thespian talents. Those tremulous sighs, that bitten lip, the eyelashes wet with barely suppressed tears—hadn’t I seen those reflected back in the mirror all my life? Hadn’t my own parents shown a truly remarkable fortitude in the face of precisely the same wiles? And yet here was Peter, giving my six-year-old daughter Ruby and her younger brother Isaac a run for their money in the drama queen department.

Peter sighed again, so loudly that it was almost a groan. I looked at him. He was sunk in the deep crevasse in the middle of our massive bed, staring at himself in the mirrored ceiling, and practicing his beleaguered husband expression. He’d become rather adept at it over the past few months. He looked downright wounded, so pathetic that I was almost willing to overcome my aversion to all things physical. Almost.

“The crack in the mirror is getting bigger,” I said, to distract him.

“Are you serious? Where?” Peter’s expression changed to one of concern, even panic. Ramon Navarro built our house in 1926. The actor lived in it for only a few years before he went on to more fabulous accommodations and ended up murdered in a Hollywood Hills mansion in 1968. The only reason we could afford the house was because it was not only completely run down, but a bit, well, quirky. The Latin lothario had had something of a baroque design inclination, and while touches like the basement dungeon, which Peter used as an office, and the Maxwell Parrish–style murals that seemed entirely innocent until you realized that the lovely young woman in the long pink gown sported a distinct Adam’s apple and hands and feet that were a mite too big for a lady, were part of the charm of the house, we could have done without the mirrored bedroom ceiling. Our contractor had informed us, however, that as soon as we pried off the splintering glass we were going to have to deal with the ancient plaster crumbling above it, and the rotten floor joists above that. Until we had the desire and financial wherewithal to replace not just the ceiling but the floor of the third story above it, we were going to have to live with our reflected selves. Then the contractor made some joke about bordellos, which neither Peter nor I thought was funny, for obvious reasons.

Through necessity I had discovered that in order to distract Peter from thoughts of sex, I had to turn his attention to something potentially more disastrous, like the possibility that our slowly cracking mirrored ceiling was going to come crashing down on top of our heads.

Peter heaved himself onto his elbows and glared up at the crack. Our bed was also a legacy of the late Mr. Navarro, handed down to each subsequent owner of the house by virtue of the fact that there was no way to move the massive thing out. The room had clearly been constructed around it. Judging by its size, the entire house may well have been built around it. While I was quite in love with the intricately carved headboard, I would happily have bought a new mattress to replace the ancient and sagging one that was on the bed. It couldn’t possibly have been the same one on which the movie star had entertained guests of various genders and professional and religious affiliations, but it sure smelled that way. However, nowadays nobody, it seems, makes a king and a half, and I hadn’t yet gotten my act together to order a specially constructed mattress to fit the huge old bed. It looked like I was going to have to do it soon, however, because a series of tiny pink dots had lately appeared on Sadie’s belly and back, leading to the inevitable conclusion that the mattress suffered from something far worse than mere malodorousness: an infestation of creepy-crawlies. Nothing like spending a king’s ransom on a house only to find it populated by an entire nation’s worth of invisible citizens.

“This house is going to kill us,” Peter said. “It’s going to crush us and bleed us like a succubus.”

“I love our house.”

“I love it, too, but it’s still going to suck the life out of us.”

“Hey, did I tell you that Isaac wants a King Arthur birthday party?” The second floor of the house had a series of Juliet balconies looking down into the living room. The flagstone floors and balconies made for the perfect setting for enacting the drama of the Knights of the Round Table.

“What a cool idea!” Peter said. “We can rent ponies and have jousting in the ballroom!”

Well, at least I’d succeeded in distracting him. The birthday party was well over a month away, and my husband is something of space cadet, or a Luftmensch, as my grandmother would have said. His brain is in the clouds, his mind distracted by things like his next horror screenplay or his bid on an eBay auction for a Maskatron action figure (with three masks, a pair of weapon arms, and two flesh-tone thigh pieces). Within a month, neither he nor Isaac would remember this birthday party idea, and I would not have to tell them that if they thought that the cosseted preschoolers in Isaac’s class were going to be allowed to hurl lances at one another, or that I was going to allow ponies in the house, they were out of their minds. Still, I was happy that at least Peter was finally thinking, however briefly, about something other than our sex life. Or lack thereof.

By morning, all three kids had migrated into our bed like refugees from a natural disaster. Except that the calamities they were running from were overpriced furniture, matching linens, and enough toys to populate a series of children’s books. The only rooms in our house that were entirely furnished were the ones belonging to the three children. I’d spent an entertaining and expensive afternoon shopping from the comfort of my hospital bed while recovering from my last caesarean section. On the very day I realized we had actually found a house, I had purchased online everything I was missing for the kids’ rooms, making sure it all matched. My mother, a woman whose photograph, with her trademark early 80s perm and brightly colored reading glasses, can be found in the Oxford English Dictionary under the word “frugal,” never once bought matching bedroom furniture for me when I was a child. In fact, my bedroom “sets” were always inherited from the most recently deceased relative on either side of the family. I slept on Tante Froma’s foam rubber mattress until I was nine, stored my clothes in Uncle Sol and Auntie Gertie’s colonial chest of drawers until high school, and lived surrounded by my great-aunt Nettie’s fascination for all things Danish Modern until I went to college. I swore that when I had children, my daughter would have a little white canopy bed with a matching dresser and desk. So far Ruby appeared not to care in the slightest about her lovely bedroom furniture and seemed only interested in wheedling herself into our bed whenever possible. Isaac could be sleeping in a shoebox for all he noticed his immediate surroundings. I had high hopes for Sadie, however, even though she had yet to spend more than the first two hours of any night in her carefully chosen Victorian-style crib with the pansy-print bumper and sheet set. She was bound to one day appreciate the fact that the knobs on her dresser matched the cushion on the desk chair, which were the same shade of sunny butter yellow as the linings in the baskets in which she would store her shoes, once she was big enough to wear them. Wasn’t she?

I popped Sadie off the nipple and, holding my breath, shifted her into the bassinet pulled up alongside our bed. She belched softly, and then settled down. I exhaled, relieved at having for once made a successful breast-to-bassinet transfer, and turned to wake up the other two children. Then I heard a low rumbling. I turned back and the cloying sour smell of a breast-fed baby’s dirty diaper accosted me. While I watched, a tangerine stain spread across the front of Sadie’s pale blue onesie.

“I just don’t get why it’s orange,” Ruby whispered. She sat up in bed next to me, staring into the bassinet.

“It’s almost the exact color of your hair.”

Ruby opened her mouth in a simulated retch. “Gross, Mom.”

Sadie pursed her lips and sucked, still deeply asleep. This, I thought, is the biggest difference between a first-time mother and a third. Never, never, would I have allowed Ruby to lie festering in her own filth. Now, I wouldn’t wake Sadie up if the house were burning down around us. I’d just wheel her outside in her bassinet and tell the firefighters to turn off their damn sirens.

“Go get dressed, kid,” I said to Ruby. “If you’re ready in five minutes or less, I’ll make pancakes.”

Two

THE beauty of being a self-employed mother is that you can take your baby to work. That’s also the horror of being a self-employed mother. Although, who am I kidding? I’m so barely employed that it hardly counts, and I certainly have no right to whine. (Not that that has ever stopped me before.)

I used to have a career. I used to be a criminal defense attorney working at the federal public defender’s office in downtown Los Angeles. I represented drug offenders and bank robbers with the odd white-collar boiler room scam artist thrown in just to keep me on my toes. I loved my job. There was nothing I enjoyed more than a morning interviewing a client in the Metropolitan Detention Center, followed by an afternoon court appearance to argue a motion to reveal the identity of a confidential informant, topped off by an evening spent preparing a witness for cross-examination. It was when those days were complicated by pumping breast milk and racing home to see the baby before she fell asleep that the joys of work began to pale. I left the federal defender’s office when Ruby was fourteen months old, full of plans to go with her to Mommy & Me, to sit with her on my lap at story hour in the library, to take long walks around the reservoir with her in the stroller, to laze away our days at the playground.

And that’s what we did. Our lives were about Mommy & Me and the playground and story hour and crayons and building blocks. We went to the library, to the park, to the zoo, to the art museum. We made necklaces out of Cheerios and ate banana and almond butter sandwiches. Three days of that and I was ready to be institutionalized. In the years since then, I have gone on to prove that it is possible to be both so busy that you realize only at dinner time that you’ve eaten nothing all day but eleven frozen frappucinos and half a rice cake you found under the baby’s car seat and, at the same time, to be so bored that a radio news segment on blind trout fishermen strikes you as the most provocative thing you’ve heard since college.

When I was pregnant with Isaac I began, accidentally at first, to do some investigation work. My husband says I was drawn to the work because I am nosy; he thinks that I have an unhealthy need to know what is going on in the lives of people around me. I think my natural curiosity is part of my charm. I’m nowhere near as bad as my grandmother, who stole Alice Roosevelt Longworth’s famous line, “If you have nothing nice to say, come sit by me.” I’m at least interested in finding out both the good and the bad about people. Is it my fault that the latter seems so much more prevalent and easier to discern?

Not quite two years ago, my old colleague Al Hockey convinced me to go into business with him. Al’s not a lawyer. He’s an ex-cop who retired from the force when the health consequences of the bullet he took made it difficult for him to function in uniform. He wasn’t going to sit behind a desk and push a pen; that’s just not the kind of guy he is. But the department wasn’t about to let him back on the street with a crumpled colon and a chip on his shoulder. To be fair, the chip’s been there all his life, and they shouldn’t have hired him if they weren’t interested in a cop who was constitutionally incapable of sucking up to the brass. After he quit the force, Al became a defense investigator with the federal defender’s office, and then he went out on his own. Al and I are unlikely friends, but friends we are, and partners, too, although every so often I wonder if my excessive fertility isn’t going to drive him to dissolve the partnership and throw me out on my ass. But I’m done having kids. Even if I wanted more, back then I wasn’t letting Peter close enough to bring another Applebaum-Wyeth into the world.

“Any rats today?” I asked as I walked into Al’s garage.

I’d tried to convince Al to shift our offices to one of the many bedrooms in my new house, but after glaring at the gargoyle chandeliers and homoerotic murals, Al had hopped back into his SUV and rolled on home to Westminster. I don’t mean to imply that my partner is an intolerant man. Sure, he’s a neoconservative nut, but his militia unit is the only racially integrated one in the United States. His wife is African American, and he is a card-carrying Libertarian and thus adamantly in favor of things like gay marriage. As far as he’s concerned, people can sleep with whomever and whatever they like, so long as the object of their desire is either a consenting adult or an inanimate object. He is, however, an old-school kind of guy, and certain things make him uncomfortable. Like the fact that my husband would be working underneath us in a dungeon with real handcuffs dangling from the walls and his storyboards propped up against an antique vaulting horse that none of us is naïve enough to think was ever really used for gymnastics. So it was the garage for Al and me, rats and all. Al insisted that the vermin infesting our makeshift office were tree rats, as if the fact that they normally made their homes in tall and gracious California palms made them any less disgusting.

“They’ve been quiet today,” Julio, our office assistant, said.

“Please tell me you’re not working on the computer.”

“Of course not.” He tapped a few keys and the screen went dark. One of the conditions of Julio Rodriguez’s supervised release from federal prison was that he have absolutely no contact with computers. That’s what happens when you’ve been convicted of immigration fraud through computer hacking. If being banned from the keyboard effectively means that you’re barred from all employment other than the most menial, well, that’s not the Probation Department’s problem, is it? Al and I had been on a protracted and so far unsuccessful campaign to convince Julio’s probation officer that society as a whole would be better served by harnessing this kid’s significant technological talent than by forcing him to flip burgers or stand on a street corner waiting for day-laborer work. We were hoping that the fact that Julio never personally benefited from his hacking would count for something. The system he had manipulated belonged to the old Immigration and Naturalization Service, and he had been giving away Social Security cards, not selling them. But so far our pleas had fallen on deaf ears. The probation officer was of the opinion that whatever his motives, Julio was an incorrigible criminal with an addiction to Internet havoc and, like an alcoholic from booze, he needed to be kept away from the computer at all costs. While I thought the guy was overreacting, and I knew Julio wasn’t about to commit another crime, I had to admit that there was a certain truth to the fact that our assistant could not, no matter how hard he tried, keep his fingers from dancing on the keyboard. In the couple of months since he’d started working for us, our network had already magically reconfigured itself and was now working at about four times the capacity and twice the speed. My hard drive had been restructured, too. I wasn’t asking, but I knew it wasn’t Al who had renamed and reorganized the database.

“Where’s the boss?” I asked.

“Coffee.”

“Ah.” My partner is not much of a morning person and is as addicted to caffeine as Julio is to digital technology.

I sat down in my chair, pulled a baby blanket over my shoulder, and lifted Sadie out of her car seat. She wasn’t crying yet, but she was making the snuffling noise that was a prelude to the frantic rooting for the breast that heralded the hysterical weeping. If I could cut her off at the pass, I might be able to get her to sleep for another hour. If so, it was possible that I would actually accomplish something this morning. That would be an event so unusual that it might cause my partner to fall to the floor in a dead faint.

“Anything new come in?” I asked.

“No,” Julio said. “But Al is helping me with a personal problem.”

My heart sank. It is so rare for a public defender to see clients turning their lives around. Julio, who had served his time and left prison with the fortitude and confidence to rewrite the story of his life, was the exception, not the rule. I couldn’t bear the idea that his tale was going to be one with an unhappy ending.

“What happened?” I said.

“Don’t sound so tragic,” Al snarled from the doorway. His eyes were puffy from lack of sleep and he held a giant coffee mug in his hand. “It’s not Chiki. It’s his cousin.” Chiki. Right. I reminded myself that Julio had recently, with an uncharacteristic blush and stammer, invited us to call him by his nickname.

“My cousin’s bunkie.”

“What’s a bunkie?”

“That’s what the ladies in prison call their cellmates. My cousin Fidelia is up at Dartmore. She called last night looking for help for her bunkie. The lady just had a baby, and someone stole the kid.”

“Apparently,” Al said, his old desk chair squeaking under his weight, “the girl signed the baby over to a foster family, thinking it was just supposed to be for a few days or weeks, and she’s now afraid they’ve absconded with the child.”

I shook my head. “Okay, hold on gentlemen. Back up here. Tell me what’s going on slowly enough for my nursing-addled mind to comprehend it. Who are we talking about?”

“Her name is Sandra Lorgeree. She was just a couple months pregnant when she got busted, and she had the baby in prison,” Chiki said. “She’s doing five years.”

“And her baby got put into foster care?”

“Not exactly,” Chiki said. “California Department of Corrections regulations allow moms to spend just twenty-four to forty-eight hours with their newborns in the hospital after they give birth. Then the ladies get sent back to the prison. The babies got to be turned over to the custody of a blood relative. If the lady has no blood relative, then she has to find someone who is a foster parent licensed by the state of California. Otherwise the baby goes to the Department of Social Services and they put the baby in foster care.”

“What’s the difference who puts the baby in foster care?”

“This whole licensed foster parent thing has made things really complicated. It used to be that when a prisoner who had no blood relatives would have a baby, she could ask a friend to come up and get the baby and bring it back home. But now, the Department of Corrections won’t release the babies to anyone who isn’t a licensed foster care provider, even if that person is who the mom wants her baby to be with.”

“But I still don’t understand why this is ‘baby stealing.’ I mean, yes, it’s awful and all that, but when the woman gets out she can just go get her kid, right?”

Chiki clucked his tongue in frustration. “It’s real bad when DSS takes a baby, because as soon as they do, the clock starts ticking for termination of parental rights.”

“What do you mean, ‘termination’? Just because the woman’s in prison? What if she’s only serving like a year or something?”

Chiki gave me a look like I was the most ignorant person he’d ever seen. “If DSS get their hands on a baby, they only give the mom six months. That’s all. I know one lady, she got a three-month extension, but that’s it. After that, the baby is gone.”

I’m ashamed to say I didn’t believe Chiki. I made a few murmurs of doubt, settled a sleeping Sadie in her car seat, and turned to my computer. With a few clicks of the mouse, I was reading a state statute that confirmed what Chiki had said. When a child up to age three is taken by the state, for whatever reason, the mother has, indeed, only six months to get it back. If she can’t take the child back, she loses parental rights altogether. The idea behind this is a good one—infants should not languish in foster care, but instead should be adopted. But for women who are in prison, this requirement has devastating consequences. Once the children of a woman who is serving a sentence longer than six months enter the foster care system, she loses them forever, even if her sentence is only a year.

“This is awful,” I said.

“No kidding,” Al said.

You’re opposed to this?” I was surprised. Al was usually in favor of people sleeping in the beds they’d made, no matter how full of nails.

“You’re damn right I am. The government has no right to take someone’s child!”

“So what happened to Sandra?” I said.

Chiki said, “She didn’t have no relative to take her baby, and no friend who was licensed.”

Sandra had been at her wit’s end, like many other women whose families lived too far away to make the trip to Dartmore prison, about sixty miles southeast of San Jose. All pregnant women in the state of California are automatically transferred to this isolated facility, as it’s close to a maternity hospital. The fact that it’s a maximum-security prison seems not to bother the California Department of Corrections overmuch. The social worker at Dartmore presented Sandra and other pregnant prisoners with what appeared to be their salvation. The Lambs of the Lord, a church-based foster care agency located in Pleasanton, a small city not too far from San Francisco, would send a family to take custody of their babies for as long as it took for the women to arrange alternative care. As soon as the prisoner’s family or friends were available to pick up the baby, the agency would arrange transfer of custody. In the meantime, the baby would be safe, well cared for, and most importantly, out of the dangerous hands of the State.

Women immediately began signing on the dotted line. At any given moment, somewhere between one and two hundred prisoners in California are in the advanced stages of pregnancy, and they’re all shipping to Dartmore as they approach their due dates. Within weeks, the Lambs had dozens of grateful recruits, including Sandra Lorgeree. She turned her baby boy over to a sweet-faced young couple from the Lambs of the Lord a mere eight hours after he was born, and no one had seen the baby since.

“What does that mean, ‘no one has seen him’?” I said. “Of course she hasn’t seen him. She’s in jail. Has someone else gone looking for him?”

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 1 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(1)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    A fabulous investigative tale

    Juliet Applebaum knows that her spouse Peter Wyeth is becoming impatient as she keeps putting him off sex. Juliet is still recovering from giving birth and breast feeding her third child, the off the scales Sadie. The former Los Angeles Public Defender has two other young children to cope with, but returns to work at the investigative firm she co-owns with former cop Al Hockey................ Dartmore State Prison convict Sandra Lorgoree hires Julie and Al to learn what happened to her two years old child who vanished along with his foster parents. As the two sleuths start their investigation, someone kills Sandra. The prison concludes that it is a sad lockdown murder, but Juliet thinks otherwise. Instead of giving up the case since her client is dead, Juliet increases her efforts feeling she owes it to Sandra. However, the mother of three might have reconsidered her dedication if she knew how deadly her wealthy adversaries are................. The latest Mommy Track Mystery is a terrific tale because of Juliet who struggles with the case and her personal life. Her youngest infant seems to think she is a 24/7 milk truck; her spouse loves sex with her but she wonders if he is cheating as she deflects his needs; and the investigation that takes a dangerous conspiratorial life of its own. Ayelet Waldman provides a fabulous investigative tale that contrasts the heavy crimes with the heroine¿s home life............... Harriet Klausner

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)