A law-school drop-out returns to her ancestral Mississippi town for solace, but becomes embroiled in the investigation of decades-old race murders.
Jiminy, a summer associate with a high-powered law firm, has an epiphany after she is knocked over by a bike messenger in Chicago’s Loop: She does not belong in corporate law. So it’s off to Fayeville, Miss., where her mother, long absent from Jiminy’s life, grew up. Jiminy moves in with her grandmother, Willa Hunt, who occupies a small farm. Willa’s part-time housekeeper, Lyn Waters, has a long history with the Hunt family. In the 1960s, Willa’s husband Henry ran a carpentry business, but the actual skilled craftsman was his black partner Edward, Lyn’s husband. Their daughter, Jiminy’s original namesake, is a bright student who wins a statewide essay contest. Jiminy finds herself drawn to Bo, Lyn’s grandnephew, who also takes refuge in Fayeville to study for his medical-school admission test. But the townsfolk look askance at this burgeoning romance between a white woman and an African-American, and Bo breaks it off after the couple is threatened by local thugs. One of the thugs, Roy, is the sycophant of Travis Brayer, former patriarch of Brayer Plantation, now incapacitated by old age and his son’s political ambitions. Jiminy gradually learns that the deaths of Lyn’s husband and daughter were no accident: Their car was run off the road, and they were shot and thrown into a local river. Apparently the whole town knew who the perpetrators were, but as with many race-motivated killings of the era, the crimes went unprosecuted. Jiminy seeks out Carlos Castaverde, a crusading lawyer who has brought many now-elderly murderers to justice in other lynching cold cases. Sleepy Fayeville is in for a long-overdue rude awakening. Gore, an accomplished screenwriter, seems unaware that the show-don’t-tell maxim applies equally to novels. Too often personality description replaces revelation of character through action.
Flawed, but worth reading for its original story line and pithy dialogue.