Even on assignment as Harlemís first and only ďcoloredĒ
policeman, he carried a book because his assignments were
light and he never knew when thereíd be time to read. And
thatís exactly what he was doing on that midwinter night in
1927 when guests at the Ninth Annual Opportunity Awards
Banquet, an event he was policing, came screaming down the
stairs of the Hotel Theresa.
It didnít take long for him to understand the problem. He
saw for himself, right outside the hotelís door: beautiful
storywriter Olivia Frelon lay on her back on the sidewalk,
her red gown spilling around her as red blood spilled from
her head. She was obviously dead, but what happened to make
her fall from one of the hotelís windows?
In the days following that night, everyone talked and most
of them talked about Vera Scott. She and Olivia had been
best friends; they did everything together and were like two
halves of a whole although Olivia, with her light skin,
could pass for a white woman. Was Vera jealous of that, or
was the rumor true that Veraís husband was sleeping with
Veraís best friend?
Was that why everybody thought Vera pushed Olivia out the
New Yorkís finest wanted to get to the bottom of what looked
like a crime, and since Officer Weldon Thomas expected his
departmentís overwhelmingly white officers to need him on
this case, he was determined to help. Heíd spent his whole
life reading detective books from the Harlem Library.
If Sherlock Holmes could solve crimes, Weldon could, tooÖ
Consisting of a basically wonderful little mystery and some
delightfully sly winks at fans who love the genre, A
Death in Harlem can present a bit of a struggle.
It begins on the storyís first page, with language thatís
often more fit for academia but thatís mixed with Jazz-Age
slang, stereotypical inner-city patter, and todayís modern
terms, sometimes all in the same scene. If that doesnít
raise one eyebrow for you, this will: it seems as though
half of Harlem 1927 is in this story, a populousness that
feels particularly excessive when characters are referred to
inconsistently. Author Karla FC Holloway tells a truly great
story, but itís told in a way that may make you scratch your
The best thing to do here, perhaps, then, is to give
yourself time with this book; it would be a shame to miss
the twisty-fun of A Death in Harlem. If you can lend
it some patience, get it in your hands.