What is a summary of Frances A. Miller's novel The Truth Trap?
The Truth Trap is the first of a four-volume series known as "the Matt McKendrick saga," a young-adult story that follows a teenager named Matt McKendrick as he struggles to survive on the streets of Los Angeles. This initial volume in the series is not only the beginning of Miller's story about Matt, but it also begins a protracted murder mystery in which then-15-year-old Matt is accused of strangling his deaf nine-year-old sister Katie. The Truth Trap begins with Matt suspected by two Los Angeles Police Department homicide investigators, Lieutenant Les Ryder and Tony Prado, of murdering his young sister. Following a brief chase and violent struggle between Matt and Lt. Ryder, the dirty, disheveled teenager, a large-for-his-age boy of 15, is arrested and taken to the police station for interrogation. Detective Prado sees in this young suspect an innocent, intelligent boy who may have committed the brutal act but who may also be entirely innocent of his sister's death. Lt. Ryder, in contrast, adopts initially a very cynical, cold attitude toward Matt, convinced of the boy's guilt.
As The Truth Trap progresses, both detectives are confident in Matt's innocence, and Ryder and his wife even take the orphaned teenager into their home, although questions of is innocence continue to hang over him. With the benefit of hindsight -- we know Miller wrote three more novels in the series continuing the story's of Matt's life, including as an adopted son to the Ryders, his difficulties adjusting to high school with the suspicions of murder continuing to haunt him, his emotional problems dealing with his beloved younger sister's murder, and his eventual exoneration -- so the mystery surrounding Katie's murder -- we know that The Truth Trap will not end with Matt's demise, or even his permanent incarceration, although he is not only briefly held in prison, but is subjected to a brutal rape by his fellow prisoners. So, while the notion of an ongoing murder investigation continues, we cease to be concerned with the question of Matt's innocence; we know he didn't kill his sister.
Miller's novel is almost unrelentingly bleak in its depiction of Matt's experiences. He and Katie were orphaned when their parents were killed in an automobile accident and he escapes to Los Angeles with her to prevent her being taken away and potentially institutionalized because of her disability (her deafness). His sister is brutally murdered, he himself experiences the rape while in jail, and is later beaten by a gang who view him as a snitch for the police, and his ostracized by the other students in his high school because of their belief in his guilt for the murder of Katie. Even Lt. Ryder, in whose home Matt finds a measure of solace, continues to suspect the worst of the boy, and it is only with Matt's heroic rescue of the Ryder's daughter, who he saves from drowning, that finally convinces this hardened detective of Matt's true, and largely benevolent nature. Under the anger that seethes within Matt, the Ryder's discover, an innocent young boy struggles to coexist with the demons that haunt him.
As noted, The Truth Trap was the first in a series of young-adult novels that follow Matt McKendrick's life during his teen years. This initial exposure of the teenage boy at the center of the series can hardly be considered polite, but Miller's intention was to expose young readers to the ugliness that exists in life and to the abilities of one of their own to persevere and eventually prevail.