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A Death in Harlem by Karla FC Holloway

c.2019, Northwestern University Press   
$18.95 / higher in Canada
248 pages

By Terri Schlichenmeyer
The Truth Contributor

With a book in your hands, you can do almost anything.

Grab a cookbook and make a meal. Pick up a how-to book and fix a toilet. Take a trip to the past or the future, learn to knit, meet a new friend, you can do it with a book. Or, with a book like A Death in Harlem by Karla FC Holloway, you might solve a crime.

It was a rare day when Officer Weldon Thomas didnít have reading material with him.

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 window?

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 head sometimes.

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.



Copyright © 2019 by [The Sojourner's Truth]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 09/19/19 09:45:48 -0400.

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