The apparent exoneration of a wrongfully convicted killer long after the fact plays havoc with the people who did the convicting—and with the convict as well.
One night 20 years ago, Nell Jarreau saw her boyfriend, geology student Johnny Blanton, stabbed to death by a masked robber whose mask slipped just long enough to give her a clear look at his face. That look was enough to persuade her—and through her testimony, a jury—that the murderer was Alvin DuPree. Now tropical storm Bernardine, which has sown death and destruction throughout North Carolina, has brought to light a videotape, locked away in the files of Detective Bobby Rice, that gives DuPree an alibi for the time of the murder. Bobby isn’t available for comment because he’s been killed in the storm. And about the only comment from his former partner, now police chief, Clay Jarreau, is that the wife he courted after closing the case should leave well enough alone. But Nell can’t keep away from DuPree, who has been released from prison with a fat civil settlement and without a clue what to do with his life. Neither can Belle Ville Guardian reporter Lee Ann Bonner, who knows a hot story when she sees one. Nor can Norah Jarreau, the troubled daughter of Nell and Johnny whom Clay has raised from birth. Soon Nell is visiting DuPree; Lee Ann is interviewing him about a possible book project; and Norah and her boyfriend Joe Don Yeller are hanging around with him and getting high. As the plot simmers, Abrahams (Nerve Damage, 2007, etc.) shows the house of cards built on the assumption of DuPree’s guilt trembling with every move that’s made.
The real prize here is DuPree, a brutish innocent who imagines himself as Job and feverishly plans a memoir called Only a Test. Abrahams succeeds in making this deeply wronged man dangerous, pitiable and scary.