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DEAR SISTER DEAD Book Review (868 hits)


The horrific murder of Vera Kincaid in the 1920s Harlem Strivers Row community sets Persia Walker’s historical mystery novel, Dear Sister Dead, in motion.

Someone chased, shot, and dumped her body. It washed ashore at Randall’s Island. Curious fact? She’s afraid of the water and won’t get near it. With her bruised face and bullets in her back, who would want to kill a nursing supervisor, First Lady of Mount Olivet Congregational, and respected member of the Strivers Row community? Her husband and Pastor Levy Kincaid, devastated by the news, turns to Lanie Price, a Harlem Age newspaper Society Events Reporter, for comfort and information on his wife’s case. Lanie, also a widow, questions Levy about the bruises on his deceased wife. Behind closed doors, Lanie and Sam, her editor and lover, wonder if Levy is a wife abuser and did he kill his beloved wife.

Enter into the picture a stranger in one Martin Del Ray. In brief, he’s a relative, can’t stand Mr. Big Shot Levy, and holds some rather interesting spiritual and political views. His suspect in the murder? Pastor Levy. Lanie’s not alone in her investigation. Detective John Black (Blackie) is hunting for the killer as well. He’s not fond of Lanie because her snooping interferes with his job. But he knows she can get critical information from the colored community better than he can. So, between sparring, they need one another to solve this case. Lanie’s low-key approach of probing for clues made for engaging reading in contrast to Blackie’s gruff, hard-edged persona. I surmise a combination of her profession and the 1920s backdrop attributed to this. Also inherent in the tale is the familiar unease in the colored community dealing with the police efforts to keep them safe that echoes into today. Amidst this dance of death swirls a cast of characters, each with a little of this and that to add to this labyrinth, keeping Lanie, Blackie, and Sam on their toes. From Kincaid’s maid Beulah Jean Henry, Church Secretary Denise Brown, Church Accountant Nate Slocum, and downtrodden resident Jake Bromley, Walker’s characters are compelling. There are plenty more of them in this mystery tale, and they all add something to this investigation to exact justice.

Dear Sister Dead has the twists and turns as a good mystery story should. One jaw-dropper disappointed me and tied into the storytelling flavor of the last few years in various media. I hoped it wouldn’t, but it did. Walker is a veteran of the publishing business, but I’m not sure if her publisher, Blood Vintage Press, is or not. I must have found dozens of copy-editing errors and even whole paragraphs at the end of a chapter that repeated at the beginning of the next one. I give Walker the benefit of the doubt. Maybe this was a style choice, but based on the number of errors, I don’t believe so. Did I receive an ARC? I hope that was the case, or again, this was a bad copy-editing job as I’ve ever seen and read. But the book was released in January. Too bad, this cost the story a star for me, as Walker did craft a solid mystery. Despite the flawed layout, I would give Walker another shot. Three stars.
Posted By: Cortez Law III
Wednesday, March 8th 2023 at 7:29PM
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