By Chet Yarbrough
Written by: Caleb Carr
Narrated by: Tom Taylorson
In a cursory search of Caleb Carr’s writing bona fides, it is a surprise that “Surrender, New York” was written by an accomplished author. Undoubtedly, fans of Caleb Carr will be appalled by this review.
Carr’s fictional dialog often sounds unnatural. His dialog is contrived in ways that detract from the story’s characters. Without being prudish, “F” words are used unnecessarily. Only subject matter and mystery make “Surrender, New York” feed desire to finish the book.
Carr’s creative insight to forensics and research on America’s failure to protect unwanted and abandoned children is remarkable.
Two areas of fascination that make Carr’s story worth completing are one—an intelligent explanation of the difference between quality forensics and TV forensics; and two—an examination of the hardship of “throw-away” children in America.
Carr notes quality forensics lets facts lead to conclusions. In contrast, Carr notes TV forensics often only collect facts to support conclusions. Carr also notes that forensic procedure is subject to human error at different stages of evidence development.
Carr implies forensic technicians are often seduced by crime scene investigators; i.e. they become adjuncts to conviction rather than researchers for justice. The technician only looks for facts that fit the crime investigator’s conclusions. TV’ forensics become part of a self-fulfilling prophesy based on an investigator’s preliminary conclusion. In real life, Carr implies some forensic technicians ignore facts that do not fit pre-conceived conclusions. Carr’s story argues that, in some forensic investigations, facts are ignored, mistakes are made, conclusions are false, and justice is thwarted.
Carr addresses forensic deficiencies with a story about children that are abandoned by their parents. Around the world, the number of children who fit that category are estimated to be 400,000 (by ISK, International Street Kids). “Throw away” kids are a specific category of children without any defined estimate in the United States; however, the number of homeless children in the U. S. was estimated as high as 2,000,000 in 2015.
Kids who are abandoned by their parents are faced with three choices; i.e., one, to become a ward of the state in a group home; two, be taken care of by a willing foster parent being subsidized by the government, or three become a “Street Kid”. None of these options have much to recommend them. Undoubtedly, some street kids luckily find an adult that truly cares for them. However, those who turn to the street likely become victims of society. Street kids get zero support from the U. S. government. They are blocked from getting a legitimate job because they are not adults. They cannot enroll in school because they have no address or guardian to support them. They become like “children of the dust” who beg at street corners, turn to crime, to traffickers, and/or prostitution to survive.
Carr creates a story that offers a creative alternative for a few “throw-away” children who exhibit some extraordinary ability. He creates an underground of “do-gooders” that search the world for wealthy people looking for a child. This underground becomes a way, in theory, for “throw away” children to have a second chance.
However, there is an unintended consequence from the opportunity presented to some of these special children. The unintended consequence is death. Carr’s story is about the ethics of the underground organization, and the forensic process in finding the truth of several children’s deaths.
Carr does create some interesting characters and offers some entertaining scenes but Carr’s poorly developed dialog diminishes the story’s creativity.