In Ferguson’s (The Thin Line Between Life and Death, 2013, etc.) thriller, a just-released convict and a journalist travel to a small Texas town where racial tension breeds contempt and violence.
Steve Cox returns to Blue’s Point 10 years after his conviction for killing a black man. The prison released him into the custody of old Jim Blue, whose family has owned Blue’s Point and neighboring Freedman’s Town for decades. At the same time, black magazine writer Mykeisha “Mike” Ali rides into town, planning to expose Blue’s Point as a cesspool of racism where the Klan and skinheads run rampant, threatening (and sometimes killing) black people. Both Steve and Mike, however, may be a hindrance to a diabolical plot already underway, and there are men willing to resort to murder to keep the two quiet. Ferguson firmly establishes the story’s racial theme. Mike, for instance, is attacked by skinheads simply for stopping to get gas, and it’s abundantly clear that Freedman’s Town is a community for the blacks unwelcome in Blue’s Point. Ferguson fortunately allows the theme to enhance the novel rather than drive it. Steve, for one, is invested in finding out who killed his father, who had been the Klan’s Grand Dragon, and he quickly learns that the murder that sent him to jail may have been a frame job. The villains, like the repugnant Tommy Saunder, reveal different levels of racism, some derived from ignorance, some from pure hatred. Steve is likable almost instantly when he saves a puppy from a discarded sack in a creek (courtesy of Tommy). Mike, too, is a laudable character. She’s nearly relegated into a supporting role in the suspenseful final act and a little too reliant on Steve while both are fleeing the Klan, but she’s admirably defiant even in the face of danger. Ferguson further augments his tale with drama—e.g., unresolved issues with Steve’s high school football pal, police chief Champ Lee—a hint of romance between Steve and Mike, and a surprising amount of mystery: whoever framed Steve for murder may very well be trying to do it again.
Respectful and astute handling of serious social conflicts in a satisfying yarn.