Graffiti Grandma by Jo Barney

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A gripping book with compelling characters who don’t want your pity.


Ellie is a crabby old woman who cleans graffiti off local mailboxes. When she meets Sarah, a black-haired teenager in Goth garb and makeup, neither imagines that they will join forces to stop a psychopathic killer of homeless young people in the neighborhood park and forest. From the moment Sarah sees her dead friend Peter’s athletic shoe poking out from a pile of curbside leaves as she helps Ellie wipe off mailbox graffiti, she knows an insane man disguised as a pirate is looking for her. Ellie receives a threatening phone call and understands someone’s out to get her too, probably the same pirate. Concern for the kids this killer calls his family leads Sarah, frightened, alone, through the trackless woods to a hidden camp in the county forest where eight scared runaways huddle around a sparking campfire. A few days later, concern for Sarah takes Ellie, armed with a butcher knife, to the same camp. Graffiti Grandma, is told through the eyes of Ellie, Sarah, a cop named Matt, and a man who calls himself Starkey, and the histories of these characters, their loves and losses, are vital in the frantic search for a killer who targets teenagers living on the streets of two Northwest towns. This gritty, shocking path leads them to a murderer with blood on his hands, a gold ring in his ear, and a note from his long-lost mother. With fear as a backdrop, the unlikely relationship of Sarah and Ellie matures into acceptance, then into friendship, and then into even more as each discovers she needs a family to replace the one she lost. Along with the shocking look into the lives of homeless teenagers and the sad beginnings of a serial killer, Graffiti Grandma carries an important message for it readers: Family is the engine that drives our lives, whether it’s the one we find ourselves in or the one we seek.

About Jo Barney

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Author Jo Barney has spent years working with teenagers and children as a counselor. Her neighborhood includes a park frequented by transients and runaways, as well as a social services agency that serves them. A few years ago she began walking the streets surrounding her apartment, graffiti remover and rags in a bag, wiping away the tags left on the mailboxes and storage units on the corners by midnight artists. She believes, then as now, that adolescents with spray cans tag to make their marks on/in the world. With a MA in counseling, she finds researching drugs and the lives of children on the streets to be both instructional and frightening. Barney has written four novels, several of which have been published as e-books, and she is currently working on a fifth book; again the protagonist is an elderly woman. As a writer and an older woman, Barney plumbs the value and wisdom of "old ladies" in her stories.
Published March 11, 2013 by Encore Press. 340 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense. Fiction
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Critic reviews for Graffiti Grandma
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on May 16 2013

A gripping book with compelling characters who don’t want your pity.

Read Full Review of Graffiti Grandma | See more reviews from Kirkus

Publishers Weekly

on Oct 21 2013

...Barney's convincing portrayal of ambivalent teen psychology prevails over the perhaps too-pat ending to provide a powerful glimpse of an underground world unknown to many, whose inhabitants are capable of transformation through love and acceptance.

Read Full Review of Graffiti Grandma | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

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