Five mean-spirited kids threaten the life of a young con man in Francine Pascal's nail-biting thriller, Little Crew of Butchers.
Charming 22-year-old Lucas Baird jumps bail after he's charged with manslaughter in Los Angeles. He hitches a ride to New York City, hoping to disappear and start anew. Unfortunately, he gets stuck in a quiet beach town on Long Island, where he runs afoul of Big Larry, a 12-year-old bully who leads a gang of 10-year-olds named Charley, Benny and Dennis. When Lucas outsmarts Big Larry during a shoplifting incident, Lucas unwittingly ignites Big Larry's psychotic rage. Taking shelter in a storm drain the next day to escape the rain, Lucas gets stuck inside when the drain collapses. The child mob finds him there, but instead of freeing Lucas, Big Larry spurs on the boys to taunt, beat and cut him. The incident escalates to murder when Lucy, Charley's seven-year-old sister, tries to help Lucas, and Big Larry runs home to get his father's gun.
Little Crew of Butchers stands in shocking contrast to Francine Pascal's previous work as creator of Sweet Valley High. The bloody Butchers focuses on the cycle of abuse, from Big Larry's dad regularly beating his son to Big Larry dishing out the same to his followers to keep them obedient. Likewise, Lucas embarks on a life of mistrustful actions and attention-seeking crimes after being raised by his single, emotionally distant mother. Pascal avoids heavy-handed parables by maintaining a suspenseful pace that culminates in a heartbreaking redemption. --Paul Dinh-McCrillis, freelance reviewer