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By Barbara Neely

Viking, July, 2000 (HC)

Reviewed by Shirley H. Wetzel

Blanche White is a strong Black woman, and she never lets you forget that. She is temporarily without her two foster kids and takes the summer off to return to her North Carolina hometown to help her best friend, Ardell, with her catering business. On the train from Boston to Farleigh she has a mild flirtation with the conductor, the handsome and charming Thelvin. This budding romance continues after the train ride, causing Blanche some mixed feelings. She has been hurt by men before, and it's hard for her to trust one again, but he seems almost perfect.

To complicate matters, her old flame shows up again, married, but unhappily, and he wants to take up where they left off years ago.

Her joy at being home again turns to terror when, while catering a formal affair at a local mansion, she spots David Palmer, a white man who raped her eight years ago. The old, awful memories come flooding back, and she finds herself wanting revenge. She gets her chance when a wealthy white acquaintance, Archibald Carter, asks for her help. It seems that his cousin Mumfield is engaged to Palmer's sister Karen. The problem is, Mumsfield has Down's Syndrome and is heir to a large fortune, and Archibald believes Karen is only after his money.

Blanche has had some success in investigating in the past, and she relishes the chance to get some dirt on David, so she takes the job. She also has some fondness for Mumsfield, although she does not consider him a true friend. She is unable, in fact, to consider any white person to be a friend, but the sweet, gentle man comes close. Interwoven within the story is the search for the person who brutally murdered a young white woman.

Blanche gets too close to the truth about something, with harrowing results.

Neely writes well, and her depiction of life in a small Southern town from an African-American point of view is interesting; however, Blanche's barely-veiled hostility to those not of her ethnic group made me a bit uneasy.

Other titles by this author include: BLANCHE ON THE LAM and BLANCHE AMONG THE TALENTED TENTH.

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