In Rob Lubitz’s gripping mystery thriller, a fictional rural county in North Carolina becomes the backdrop for a tale of racism and corruption.
In 1948, while driving late at night on a North Carolina country road, a white man, Billy Dalton, heroically rescues a battered black woman and her little girl from a burning vehicle. Two days later, he awakens in a hospital from a coma with third degree burns on his face and arms. As he attempts to recount the incident for local authorities, the sadistic sheriff insists there was no woman, child, or other vehicle found at the accident site, only Billy’s destroyed car, insinuating that Billy was drunk and crashed his automobile, and that the resulting trauma caused hallucinations.
To avoid a lengthy jail sentence, Billy admits guilt and accepts a plea bargain. He begins life anew, now horribly disfigured, depressed and suicidal. Drafted into the Korean conflict, Billy serves honorably, then returns to the States to marry a caring woman.
Now, 13 years later, a private investigator visits Billy to help unravel the secrets behind the night of the burning car. Billy ultimately learns the client paying for the investigation, Lacey Evers, is the woman he rescued. As the story unfolds, Lacey uncovers secrets about her familial heritage and joins forces with Billy to rid the area of its controlling racists.
Lubitz’s novel weaves themes of love and war, law and corruption, justice and revenge, while also exploring judgements made on physical appearances, whether skin color, physical anomalies, or disabilities. It artfully evokes the era, with references to lynchings, the KKK, phrases like “high yellow” (slang for a fair-skinned Negro), and the prejudice of miscegenation. While the story fluctuates between the late ’40s and the early ’60s, contemporary readers will find it relevant to today’s society.
With short chapters, authentic dialogue, steady action and revelations, Lubitz’s narrative provides an entertaining, thought-provoking read that highlights vulnerability as well as bravery in the face of injustice.
Also available as an ebook.