PJ Parrish has worked as a newspaper reporter and editor, arts reviewer, blackjack dealer and personnel director in a Mississippi casino. The author currently lives in Southaven Mississippi and Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
The ghosts of a small town's bigoted past are tangible presences in this tense but predictable crime drama set in racially divided rural Mississippi. Mulatto police investigator Louis Kincaid is newly relocated from Detroit to the sleepy burg of Black Pool when a local field yields a gruesome discovery: the remains of a young black man lynched 20 years ago. Louis attempts to establish the man's identity and the motive for his killing but meets stiff resistance from diplomatic good-old-boy sheriff Sam Dodie and shifty local politicos who consider the past "over, totally irrelevant, and certainly not worth digging up." The two crime-scene clues Louis has to work withÄa moldering book of poetry and a medallion linked to the antebellum white aristocracyÄare soon compounded by the suspicious deaths of several town elders, which suggest the desperate attempt of someone, possibly the mayor or the district attorney, to keep the town's dark and dirty history secret. Louis, who is cut from the same stylish cloth as John Ball's Virgil Tibbs, is an absorbing character, unable to detach emotionally from his investigation and unwilling to accommodate Black Pool's arrogant attitudes toward blacks. His supporting cast, which includes an abundance of oafish white-trash cops and sympathetic Southern belles who introduce hints of taboo interracial sex, are too familiar and give the novel too many points of correspondence with In the Heat of the Night and similar racial ly charged crime thrillers. Parrish's debut is promising, but Louis Kincaid deserves future adventures that are more challenging and original. (Apr.)