The Burden of Truth

Neal Griffin

Forge, 2020

Agent: Jill Marr

As a serving police officer, Neal Griffin saw how family ties, loyalty to friends, and their own ambitions could lead young men to make choices that got them hurt, killed, or imprisoned. He explores this complex web of relationships and pressures in The Burden of Truth.

In a small city in southern California, 18 year-old Omar Ortega is about to graduate high school. For years, he’s danced on the fringes of gang life, trying desperately to stay out of the cross-hairs. Once Omar joins the Army, his salary, plus his meager savings, will get his mother and siblings out of the barrio, where they’ve lived since his father was deported.

One night, everything changes. Newly released from prison, Chunks, the gang’s shot-caller, has plans for Omar. That boy, Chunks thinks, needs to be jumped in.

By dawn, Omar will be labeled a cop-killer. Law-and-order advocates and community organizers will battle over Omar’s fate in the court of public opinion while the criminal justice system grips him in its teeth.

One night can destroy a man and all who depend on him.

That he’s innocent does not matter.


"Call this a procedural, a detective story, a thriller, or just a crime novel, but, however it's tagged, Griffin's third effort (following A Voice from the Field, 2016) offers one of the finest reading experiences of the year... The novel's message could be that America isn't the golden land any more, but anyone who doesn't want to go that far can still relish the fierce energy, the verbal skill, and the display of a dazzling talent at work."
Booklist (starred) 

"The tense denouement is incredibly sad, but realistic. Fans of contemporary police procedurals will be satisfied."
Publishers Weekly

“Griffin knows the dark and violent world he writes about. It is our good fortune he is also possessed of the keen talent to write of it so vividly.”
—James Carlos Blake, author of The Ways of Wolfe

“As one of the few national columnists in America, who is Latino and the son of a retired cop, I was eager to see how cop-turned-novelist Griffin would craft Omar Ortega, a Mexican-American teenager who straddles the line between overzealous cops and bad actors in his neighborhood until his lucks runs out. Telling that story, with all its realism and necessary color, but also with the nuance, honesty and complexity it deserves, is no easy task. [Griffin is] a gifted storyteller with plenty of grit and real-life experience to back up the prose."
—Ruben Navarette