Tuesday, April 10, 2018

"Between the Lies" -- a Book Review

Between the Lies is Cynthia Graham's newest book, a contemporary Southern Gothic mystery set in the 1950s.

It tells the story of how Sheriff Hick Blackburn of Cherokee Crossing, Arkansas finds himself enmeshed in a case of a young Black man being railroaded for a crime that Blackburn's pretty sure the boy didn't commit -- but is in a town outside his jurisdiction. This is set in a few hot, humid July days in 1954. And more than the weather is hot and sticky. Graham's story deals with small town corruption and racism, the power and abuse of white privilege, political expediency, Jim Crow, family loyalty, and more.  She weaves all these together into a compelling tale well told.

The landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court declaring state laws that established "separate but equal" public schools for black and white students were unconstitutional figures prominently in Between the Lies. So does the burgeoning role of the U.S. Department of Justice in the field of civil rights (though the Department of Justice did not have a full division addressing civil rights until 1957).

Primarily, though, this is the story of one man and two towns coming to grips with insidious racism and corruption engendered by it. Broken Creek, Arkansas is not Mayberry, North Carolina. And Sheriff Earl Brewster is no Sheriff Andy Taylor. Broken Creek and Brewster are both dark -- even in the light of day. Perhaps even more so in the light of day.

Graham's story-line is tight and her characters are well-written and believable. Hick is a good guy who's flawed, Brewster is a baddie who you love to hate but who has some (hard to find) redeeming motivations, there's a Pulitzer seeking small town newspaper man, befuddled mostly good-hearted deputies, an earnest young female lawyer, parents trying to do their best for their children, moonshiners, compromised clergy, and more. Each character is integral to the story. There's not a wasted bit of dialogue and the story moves at a good pace.

I won't say more about the story-line. To do so would, I fear, ruin it for readers. Let me just say that this was a book that kept me reading. Though set in 1954, it has a lot to say to us today (without being preachy -- which it could have easily become). It held my interest all the way through. There were a number of things that I didn't see coming (always good in a mystery). And the ending was a mixture of relief, wondering, and sadness.

I am looking forward to reading more about Hick Blackburn. I like this man who struggles with his past and grows into his future.

1 comment:

Deepak Yadav said...

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