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Joan Merriam

  • Title: A Just Reckoning

  • Author: Joan Merriam

  • Publication Date: February 20, 2021

  • Publisher: Joan Merriam

  • ISBN:  ebook 978-1-7365632-1-2    ~    print: 978-1-7365632-0-5

  • ASIN:  B08VF73GSD

  • Retail price: ebook $4.99   ~     print: $10.99

  • Available In: ebook    ~   paperback

  • Genre: Mystery, Suspense

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Joan Merriam

Author Bio

A Just Reckoning: Synopsis

Slicing into the poisonous underbelly of the global sex trade, investigative journalist Tess Alexander finds herself catapulted into an unspeakable world that she barely knew existed.


It also puts a target on her back.


This isn’t the first time Tess’s work has put her in danger, but this new investigation puts her in far worse peril than anything she’s faced before. It begins after she meets Katia Voitenko, who as a child living along the Black Sea coast of Crimea was kidnapped and sold into decades of sex slavery. Hearing Katia’s appalling story, Tess becomes determined to unmask the ruthless criminals behind the international sex trafficking ring that enslaved the young woman.  


Her search for the ringleaders drives her thousands of miles from the safety of her northern California home to the streets and alleyways of Ukraine, Crimea, and Great Britain.


During the course of her investigation—and with the help of a collection of characters that includes a Ukrainian revolutionary, an officer with London’s Metropolitan Police Department, and one of the leaders of a transnational organization dedicated to rescuing victims of the sex trade—Tess uncovers the sinister extent of the trafficking operation, and almost pays with her life.


Joan Merriam




Human Trafficking Isn’t Fiction



Nevada City, CA     It’s a subject more visible now than ever before: human sex trafficking. From Florida to Michigan to Texas to Portland, legislators and civic leaders are facing the reality of trafficking in their states, their communities, their neighborhoods.


Author Joan Merriam confronts the crime head-on in her new novel, A Just Reckoning. While the book may be fiction, the subject is all too real. Yet because the book is fiction, says the author, it allows readers to approach the difficult issue of trafficking from an emotional distance. “It’s that distance,” Merriam says, “that can help us explore a problem and ultimately, acknowledge that it actually exists.”


As the former director of a child abuse prevention organization, Merriam knows first-hand just how difficult it is to get people to concede the reality of tough topics.


This book aims to do just that with the subject of human trafficking. It follows the efforts of an investigative journalist to expose the ringleaders behind an international sex trafficking operation, and find justice for a young woman who was kidnapped as a child and forced into the global sex trade.


Joan Merriam is the author of the nonfiction book, Little Girl Lost: A True Story of Shattered Innocence and Murder. She has also written for national and regional magazines, and received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, Writer’s Digest, and New Millennium Writers.


She is available for interviews, online conversations with bloggers and book reviewers, and once COVID loosens its grip, personal appearances and speaking engagements.  


A Just Reckoning is available at independent bookstores and online sites such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


To learn more about the book and read an excerpt, go to




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Author Q & A

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m a third-generation native Californian, born in the not-so-small-anymore foothill town of Auburn, and have a Master’s degree in Communications. I always say I’m one of those baby-boomers who couldn’t figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up. I’ve worked in sales, in real estate appraisal, in PR, I owned my own business, I ran a nonprofit, and more. I think I’ve been just about everything except the bearded lady at the circus! In addition to my writing, I’m an instructor of Communication Studies at Sierra College’s Nevada County Campus.


What brought you to the Sierra?

After my father passed away, I wanted to move to somewhere cooler, in the forest. I’d always loved the area around Nevada City, and was fortunate to find a piece of property here and build my house.


How did you get into writing?

I’ve been writing as long as I can remember…even when I wasn’t in the business of writing! But my foray into published writing came in 1993: I was working as a Master’s intern at Channel 10 when two very young teenage girls inexplicably slaughtered an elderly woman in her Auburn Greens condominium. Because I was a native of Auburn, the assignment editor asked if I could cover the trial for the station. From there, I became riveted by the story of these two girls, and it eventually turned into my nonfiction book, Little Girl Lost: A True Story of Shattered Innocence and Murder, published in 1993.


Some years later I published an article in Sacramento Magazine that won an award from the Society of Professional Journalists, then went on to write articles for other national, regional, and local magazines and newspapers, and to win additional awards. I started writing my “Casey’s Corner” column for The Union newspaper in 2012, and it’s now syndicated in three other newspapers in California and Colorado.


What is your favorite book, and who is your favorite author?

My favorite author(s) are Dean Koontz, John Grisham and Truman Capote. My favorite book is When Bad Things Happen to Good People, by Harold Kushner.


What is A Just Reckoning about?

It’s the story of investigative journalist Tess Alexander’s plummet into the sordid world of the global sex trade. It begins after Tess meets Ekaterina Voitenko, who as a small child living along the Black Sea coast of Crimea was kidnapped and sold into decades of sex slavery. Hearing her appalling story, Tess embarks on a tumultuous journey from the safety of her home in Northern California to Crimea, Ukraine, and London in an effort to unmask the criminals behind the trafficking ring that enslaved the young woman. In the process, it also puts a target on her back.

This is the first book in the Tess Alexander mystery series; the second one, A Fine Oblivion, should be out before the end of the year.


What inspired you to write this book?

It was a whole lot of things: a lifelong fascination with mysteries…an incessant curiosity about the darker side of the human psyche, and what makes people do the things they do…and a trip I took to the former Soviet Union as a peace delegate, and my ensuing fascination with its culture and people.


What have you found most challenging about writing books?

For Little Girl Lost, it was the unremitting darkness of the child abuse which underlay each of the two girls’ childhoods, and how it keyed into my own experience as a survivor of sexual abuse.


For A Just Reckoning, it was twofold: finding the time in the midst of my teaching and other responsibilities, and simply keeping going even when I felt stuck or hopeless or uninspired.


What is the key message you hope readers find in your book?

That hope lives in even the darkest of corners, and that some measure of justice is possible. I always carry in my mind the saying that all it takes for evil to persist is for the good people to do nothing. It’s our responsibility as human beings to do something when there is injustice in the world.


Where can people find your book?

You can order A Just Reckoning at any independent bookstore. It’s also available as an e-book and paperback on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other internet sites. I plan to have the audiobook out this summer.


What does your perfect day look like?

My perfect day would be in the spring, outside working in my garden, with my dog Joey by my side.

For all press inquiries, contact Joan Merriam at

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