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TROUBLE IN QUEENSTOWN by Delia Pitts: Book Review

When the first line of a mystery is “I was horny,” the reader may be certain that the book isn’t a cozy.  This is how Black private investigator Evander Myrick introduces herself in Delia Pitts’ debut novel; she’s one strong lady.

Born and bred in Queenstown, New Jersey, Evander has had a tough life.  Her hometown has always been a hotbed of Ku Klux Klan activities, and although there’s now a Black police chief, it’s white mayor Jo Hannah whose hand is at the controls.  In case the sentiment of the town isn’t clear, two of Queentown’s businesses make it obvious:  Kate’s Kountry Kitchen and Kozy Klean Kafé, with the latter bragging that it has fish on its menu every day but Friday.

When Evander returns to Queenstown after some time away, she’s surprised to learn that Leo Hannah, nephew of the mayor, wants to set up an appointment with her.  They meet, and he tells her that he wants to hire her to protect his wife who is being stalked.  Evander says she’ll need to interview Ivy, and he responds,”No, I won’t permit that.”

Evander realizers there’s more going on than Leo is telling her, and her persistence forces him into admitting the truth.  “It’s me in danger.  Not Ivy.”  He thinks she’s having an affair; if she is, he wants a divorce and total custody of their young son.

After several days following Ivy, Evander can’t find any sign of an illicit relationship.  Ivy does the usual suburban wife/mother thing:  taking their son to preschool, buying groceries, shopping at Target.  Evander finishes her report to Leo, who is supposed to stop by her office to pick it up, but then her phone rings.  He says he’s not feeling well and asks her to drop off the report at his home instead.

As she drives up to the Hannah home, Evander sees a patrol car in the driveway and two uniformed policemen coming toward her, guns drawn.  Evander is permitted inside, and there she sees a horrific scene.  A dead man is lying on the floor, blood pooling over his face.  Next to him is Ivy,  barely breathing, with Leo crouching next to her, sobbing.  An ambulance takes Ivy to the hospital, and shortly after that Mayor Josephine Hannah enters the house, telling the police officers to extend every courtesy to Evander, that she’s working for Leo.  Then she informs the group, “Ivy died on the operating table ten minutes ago.  This is a murder investigation now.”

Delia Pitts’ first mystery is an excellent one.  There is a palpable uneasiness in Queenstown, perhaps a remnant of its racist past or perhaps an acknowledgement of its racist present.  There’s a major disconnect between its Black and white citizens, something Evander definitely knows.  But she’s tenacious and determined to do her best for Leo and discover Ivy’s killer.

You can read more about the author at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden OldiesPast Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.




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