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Novelist Owen Laukkanen is in town on Friday to sign his latest thriller, The Stolen Ones, which ventures into the dangerous and deadly world of human trafficking. Investigative team Kirk Stevens and Carla Windermere are called in when a Minnesota sheriff's deputy is killed. A hysterical woman holding the deputy's gun is found standing over the body. She speaks no English and, at first glance, seems to be guilty of murdering the deputy. As Stevens and Windermere investigate, they find nothing is what it seems.

Laukkanen says human trafficking's a topic that's both necessary and difficult to discuss. "We have to talk about it, though," he tells us. "When I was doing research for the book I found out Houston is one of the hubs for trafficking in the country. Even if you think, 'Oh, this doesn't affect me,' really, it's all around us.

"When I was writing the book, I wanted to get it right. What happens to [victims] is a nightmare. I didn't want to sensationalize it and at the same time, I didn't want to play it down. I had to find a balancing point between the two. I want to tell a good story and I want to respect [survivors]."

A sexual assault survivor who read Stolen Ones recently told Laukkanen that he did, in fact, get it right. "It's always humbling to hear that."

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Laukkanen is in town for a group discussion and signing session with Where All Light Tends to Go author David Joy (the two have been Facebook friends but haven't actually met). Novelists Bryon Quertermous and Duane Swierczynski also will be on hand to discuss and sign their latest books, Murder Boy and Canary respectively.

Owen Laukkanen appears at 6:30 p.m. on Friday. Murder by the Book, 2342 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-524-8597 or visit murderbooks.com. Free.

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