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From Thief to Thespian - Can a Criminal Make the Switch?

Published as a guest post by senior librarian and book reviewer Lesa Holstine, on Lea's Book Critiques

By Joyce Yarrow

In A Scandal in Bohemia, Watson admires Sherlock Holmes’ gift for transforming himself, telling us that his friend’s “very soul seemed to vary with every fresh part that he assumed.” Watson might have been describing a professional actor and this made me wonder. What if Sherlock had marshaled his extensive skills to commit, rather than solve, crimes?

Better yet, what if a talented thief and jewelry forger were to defy the odds and try to reinvent herself as an actress and make-up artist working in the legitimate theater? Could she ‘go straight’ when all she had known was a life of crime

? This is the challenge faced by the character who came to life on the page for me as Sandie Donovan, a/k/a Sandie Doyle, the protagonist of Sandstorm.

Born in Yonkers, New York, Sandie is raised by a father with a skewed moral compass. After her mother dies, he literally tosses his daughter into the Arizona desert to survive the horrors of a bootcamp for delinquent teens. This betrayal hardens Sandie, and given the Teflon exterior she presents to the world, it took me—her creator—quite a while to fathom what lay beneath. Any dreams she might have had of leading a normal life were buried under years of deception and denial.

My first clue to Sandie’s potential to pick up new skills was how quickly she mastered the complex processes used to create fake jewels. She took great pleasure in studying the craft under the tutelage of her self-styled “rescuer,” mentor, a

nd boyfriend, Russell. The second hint was how enthralled she was with the acting classes she took at a community college. As she herself says: “I learned how imaginary feelings can be the most genuine, especially for people like me who hate showing our emotions.”

Inevitably, Russell’s business falls apart, along with the mirage of his generosity, and Sandie is once again cast out on her own. This time she is armed with both criminal and lawful abilities that she puts to use in her quest to prove there is more to her life than simple survival.

Back in New York, she lands a role in an indie film and falls in love with the producer. Unfortunately Sandie’s careless tongue provides her former friends with enough information to nick a valuable Warhol painting from her lover’s h

igh-end loft. Sandie’s decision to steal back the art from one of the most dangerous fences in the city is at the heart of her story. What she seeks to reclaim is much more than a painting. It is her right to live life without resorting to crime, to claim her true identity in the face of all the obstacles put in her path, including her own upbringing. I rooted for her to make a safe landing and I hope you will too.

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