Southern gothic mingles with modern noir in this well-intentioned mashup.
P.T. Marsh, a sergeant in the Mason Falls, Georgia, police department, has lost his way. After the deaths of his wife and son he has fallen into depression, drinking his way through his days, no longer Mason Falls’ best detective. Late one night he tries to help Crimson, a strip club performer, whose partner, Virgil Rowe, abuses her, but he soon finds himself in more complicated trouble. He beats and threatens Rowe, goes home, and wakes up to find Rowe has been murdered. Has Marsh killed him? He doesn’t know, but things get really sticky when Rowe becomes the most likely suspect in another murder that had taken place earlier that evening. The victim in that earlier death was a black teenager who was tortured and lynched. Following up on the racist murder leads Marsh to a white supremacist group and then further into history, revealing a pattern of deaths that reach back to the “old” South and exposing a shadowy cabal still in operation today. Historic documents contain the names of families still powerful in Georgia and hint at horrifying rituals. Marsh, who believes he can genuinely number himself among the unprejudiced white people—he has an African-American partner and his wife was also African-American—becomes again a "good detective" in opposing this powerful form of racism. Marsh is a likable character, but he has too much to do here: solve Rowe's murder to exonerate himself; rehabilitate himself and his reputation on the force; and expose and then fight the cabal. And while the persistence of racism is undeniable, the shape it takes in this novel is so sensationalized it may distract from the more pedestrian and pressing forms that are always around us.
A promising start, but McMahon could do more with less.