Blanche White, Barbara Neely's smart, queen-sized, middle-aged African American sleuth, is a no-nonsense dame who's carrying some old baggage when she takes the summer off from cleaning houses for rich Boston matrons and returns to her North Carolina hometown. Almost a decade ago, Blanche was raped by David Palmer, scion of the town's leading family. Although she never brought charges against him, Blanche hasn't forgiven or forgotten. Now Palmer's sister is engaged to a sweet, mildly retarded young man for whom Blanche has a deep affection. When asked by his guardian to investigate the girl by using her connections with the domestics who know everything about the private lives of the town's most prominent families, Blanche sees an opportunity to bring the man who raped her to justice. The fact that he's been implicated in the murder of another woman makes revenge an even sweeter prospect.
What's most interesting about this lively series is the point of view of its heroine, a woman with a strong and clearly depicted perspective on the uneasy truce between blacks and whites in American society. Neely has created a true original in Blanche. With every new outing in this snappy series(Blanche Cleans Up, Blanche Among the Talented Tenth, Blanche on the Lam), she peels back more layers to reveal her heroine's emotional depths, her hard-earned wisdom, and her difficult but ultimately rewarding connection with the people she loves. Add love, hate, race, and homicide to Neely's expert characterizations, and you get a great read from a terrific, award-winning writer. --Jane Adams
From Publishers Weekly
Blanche White, an African-American maid-cum-sleuth, returns for a fourth outing (following Blanche Cleans Up) that takes her back home to Farleigh, N.C., from Boston. It's a trip freighted with racial bitterness and gender rage as 50-year-old Blanche faces up to old truths about the new South and confronts the rapist, David Palmer, who drove her from Farleigh eight years before. Agatha Award-winner Neely is at her best when Blanche seeks to define or redefine relationships with the people she cares most about: her aged mother, Cora; her best friend, Ardell; and the wonderful railroad porter, Thelvin, whom she meets on the train to Farleigh. The author also movingly describes Blanche's efforts to overcome her fear and hatred of the man who raped her. After Blanche is hired to get the dirt on David's sister, Karen, she sees an opportunity to get the goods on David as well. When it appears that David may be involved in the recent murder of a young white girl, Blanche is determined that he won't go unpunished this time, and Blanche's quest, both for vengeance and to reclaim her life, drives a compelling plot. Neely is a fine phrase-maker, and her black characters are vibrantly alive. Unfortunately, with the exception of an adult male with Down's syndrome, the white characters here are all stereotypically venal, racist, stupid and mean. Such reverse discrimination mars an otherwise admirable tale. 6-city author tour.
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