A novel with a real-world setting explores the disturbing consequences of racial intolerance.

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THE SOUTH OF BLACK FORGIVENESS

Clovis’ (Just a Book in the Library, 2019, etc.) latest novel centers on white supremacist ideology in America, seen primarily through the eyes of a black female journalist. 

Tanisha is a recent Columbia University grad living in Harlem. As a reporter for “a small local newspaper,” she sometimes writes op-ed pieces. With these, she can express her opinion on such events as a speech by Mark Zuckerberg about free expression, which did not reassure her that Facebook had no “alliance with anti-Black forces.” But another story grabs headlines after a shooting at and bombing of a Harlem Pentecostal church leaves six parishioners dead and five wounded (although the number of injured would later rise to 26). Tanisha discusses the tragedy with her editor and fellow reporters, particularly the crumbled note found at the scene that says: “Please forgive me.” This makes the third crime in the same neighborhood with a similar note left behind; in each case, the victim(s) have been black. Tanisha soon determines that the killer’s notes of forgiveness are seeking justification for “White violence”—and that further brutal acts are planned. Equally unnerving is that Tanisha, who continually spots the same person at the subway, believes someone is stalking her. She and her colleagues, though cautious, search for evidence that might point to a murderer. This book, like Clovis’ earlier work, is steeped in frank social commentary. Zeroing in on the political ideology of white supremacy, it deals intelligently with real-life occurrences, ranging from police shootings and the arrests of innocent black people to President Donald Trump’s brazenly comparing his impeachment to a lynching. Clovis’ prose is expressive and unequivocal, as when she writes of a student: “Seven White campus cops forcibly removed her Brown body handcuffed behind her back, wrangling violently like a caterpillar from the front door of the building at American University in Washington.” Tanisha’s story, along with the likable, savvy protagonist, presents flashes of the killer’s unnerving narrative perspective. Most readers will predict a later twist, but it doesn’t diminish the impact of the racial crimes in this novel.

A novel with a real-world setting explores the disturbing consequences of racial intolerance.

Pub Date: June 15, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: BalboaPress

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

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Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

ONE GOOD DEED

Thriller writer Baldacci (A Minute to Midnight, 2019, etc.) launches a new detective series starring World War II combat vet Aloysius Archer.

In 1949, Archer is paroled from Carderock Prison (he was innocent) and must report regularly to his parole officer, Ernestine Crabtree (she’s “damn fine-looking”). Parole terms forbid his visiting bars or loose women, which could become a problem. Trouble starts when businessman Hank Pittleman offers Archer $100 to recover a ’47 Cadillac that’s collateral for a debt owed by Lucas Tuttle, who readily agrees he owes the money. But Tuttle wants his daughter Jackie back—she’s Pittleman’s girlfriend, and she won’t return to Daddy. Archer finds the car, but it’s been torched. With no collateral to collect, he may have to return his hundred bucks. Meanwhile, Crabtree gets Archer the only job available, butchering hogs at the slaughterhouse. He’d killed plenty of men in combat, and now he needs peace. The Pittleman job doesn’t provide that peace, but at least it doesn’t involve bashing hogs’ brains in. People wind up dead and Archer becomes a suspect. So he noses around and shows that he might have the chops to be a good private investigator, a shamus. This is an era when gals have gams, guys say dang and keep extra Lucky Strikes in their hatbands, and a Lady Liberty half-dollar buys a good meal. The dialogue has a '40s noir feel: “And don’t trust nobody.…I don’t care how damn pretty they are.” There’s adult entertainment at the Cat’s Meow, cheap grub at the Checkered Past, and just enough clichés to prove that no one’s highfalutin. Readers will like Archer. He’s a talented man who enjoys detective stories, won’t keep ill-gotten gains, and respects women. All signs suggest a sequel where he hangs out a shamus shingle.

Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-5056-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2019

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Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

CROOKED RIVER

FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast finds evil afoot in his latest action-filled adventure (Verses for the Dead, 2018, etc.).

Imagine Florida beachcombers’ shock when they discover a shoe with a severed foot inside. Soon they see dozens more feet, all in identical shoes, bobbing toward the beach. Police and FBI ultimately count more than a hundred of them washing up on Sanibel and Captiva Islands' tranquil shores. Pendergast teams up with the junior Special Agent Armstrong Coldmoon to investigate this strange phenomenon. Oceanographers use a supercomputer to analyze Gulf currents and attempt to determine where the feet entered the ocean. Were they dumped off a ship or an island? Does each one represent a homicide? Analysts examine chemical residues and pollen, even the angle of each foot’s amputation, but the puzzle defies all explanation. Attention focuses on Cuba, where “something terrible was happening” in front of a coastal prison, and on China, the apparent source of the shoes. The clever plot is “a most baffling case indeed” for the brilliant Pendergast, but it’s the type of problem he thrives on. He’s hardly a stereotypical FBI agent, given for example his lemon-colored silk suit, his Panama hat, and his legendary insistence on working alone—until now. Pendergast rarely blinks—perhaps, someone surmises, he’s part reptile. But equally odd is Constance Greene, his “extraordinarily beautiful,” smart, and sarcastic young “ward” who has “eyes that had seen everything and, as a result, were surprised by nothing.” Coldmoon is more down to earth: part Lakota, part Italian, and “every inch a Fed.” Add in murderous drug dealers, an intrepid newspaper reporter, coyotes crossing the U.S.–Mexico border, and a pissed-off wannabe graphic novelist, and you have a thoroughly entertaining cast of characters. There is plenty of suspense, and the action gets bloody.

Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4725-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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