Step Over Rio
Martha Everhart Braniff
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At night, death squads roam the slums of Guatemala City, where no homeless child is safe. Alex Sifuentes lives there in a shelter for orphaned kids, his dream of a better life dashed, when a murderous squad kills his little brother and targets Alex. Forced to leave, he flees with a coyote who smuggles him and other kids into Houston, Texas. Alex is indentured to a cantina owner who will use him any way she pleases, but during a police raid he escapes, finding his way to an exotic shaman who shelters immigrants. Under the shaman's protection, Alex forms unique bonds with a hardnosed reporter and federal agent, both of whom are committed to ending youth sex trafficking. Since Alex was once in a Guatemalan street gang, he assists the agent's investigation by joining a gang involved in the crime. Thus, begins another treacherous journey, this time in the United States, a place Alex once considered to be the promise land. A saga of fierce friendships and uncommon courage transforms Alex and those who help him as he starts his new life in America, just a step over rio. This mystery novel, written by Martha Braniff, is based on her work with abused and neglected children and child immigrants over the past thirty years and on actual crimes researched through federal agencies. STEP OVER RIO won the Writer's League of Texas Mystery/Adventure Novel Award.