At the height of the Civil Rights movement, a young girl’s murder stirs racial tensions in Birmingham, Alabama The grave on the football field is shallow, and easy to spot from a distance. It would have been found sooner, had most of the residents in the black half of Birmingham not been downtown, marching, singing, and being arrested alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. Police detective Ben Wellman is among them when he gets the call about the fresh grave. Under the loosely packed dirt, he finds a young black girl, her innocence taken and her life along with it. His sergeant orders Wellman to investigate, but instructs him not to try too hard. In the summer of 1963, Birmingham is tense enough without a manhunt for the killers of a black child. Wellman digs for the truth in spite of skepticism from the black community and scorn from his fellow officers. What he finds is a secret that men from both sides of town would prefer stayed buried.
In this expert, relentless detective novel by the author of Flesh and Blood and last year's Edgar-nominated Sacrificial Ground , the sweltering, angry summer of 1963 in Birmingham, Ala., serves to make every crime a powderkeg of racial tension. As the rest of the police force is being called upon to hose demonstrators, to arrest marching schoolchildren and even to take notes on Martin Luther King's speeches for their inflammatory content, detective Ben Wellman investigates the rape and murder of a deaf 12-year-old black girl. Wellman's boss wants him to make a minor show of concern without really pursuing the criminal, the black community greets his efforts with mistrust and skepticism, and his fellow cops, most of them rednecks and racists, view his dedication as misplaced. As Wellman probes further, he discovers that all sides have reasons to hope that the case remains unsolved. Cook doesn't use the civil rights movement merely as a conveniently atmospheric backdrop; he weaves it through the plot in sharp, unexpected ways, never letting his focus stray too far from Wellman's dogged attempt to find an elusive killer. Paperback rights to Warner Books; movie rights to Hollywood Pictures; Preferred Choice and Detective Book Club selections; BOMC and Mys terious Book Club alternates.