Graceby Howard Owen
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Life is cheap on the poor side of town. For more than two decades, young black kids have been disappearing from Richmond's East End. No bodies have ever been found, and the missing boys haven't received much attention from police or the media. When the uncle of the latest missing kid takes matters into his own hands and holds the daily newspaper's publisher hostage in the paper's lobby, Willie Black gets involved, and things start to change.
The world's oldest night cops reporter knows something about the inequities of race and income. When Sam McNish, a crusader for social justice who grew up in the same hardscrabble Oregon Hill neighborhood as Willie, is arrested shortly after a child's body is discovered, the police start making the case that McNish has been the demonic force behind all the boys' disappearances.
Willie, after working the traps he's developed from his too-many years as a reporter, isn't so sure.
As Willie teases out the real story, he manages to antagonize his publisher and the city's power structure as well as police chief L.D. Jones, but experience has taught him that the more people he angers, the closer he probably is to the truth. Along the way, he forms a strange alliance with Big Boy Sunday, a dangerous man who exhibits a strong interest in seeing that Willie finds the truth--although Willie will learn that Big Boy wants parts of that truth to remain hidden.
Meet the Author
Howard Owen, a veteran newspaper editor, lives in Richmond, Va., with his wife, Karen Van Neste Owen. This is his 14th novel and the fifth Willie Black mystery. The first, Oregon Hill, won the Dashiell Hammett Prize for best crime literature in the U.S. and Canada. It was followed by The Philadelphia Quarry, Parker Field and The Bottom. Owen's earlier works include Littlejohn, Fat Lightning, Rock of Ages and The Reckoning.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Willie Black, agnostic, sometimes angry, old-school aging reporter on the late-night crime-beat, is back condemning and redeeming himself in another Richmond Virginia mystery from author Howard Owen. The crime-beat is the bottom of the barrel as far as reporting jobs go, but Black needs and maybe even loves the job, just as he loves and maybe even needs the woman who might become wife number four. He lives among the rich, grew up among the poor, belongs on both sides of most divides, and can’t be trusted not to break every good thing with too many drinks. But whatever harm Willie might do to himself or his relationships, he’s determined to see justice done for others, and Grace is a vividly real novel of poverty, life’s unfairness and discrimination, and the curious road to hope. The story’s contemporary relevance is pleasingly lowkey, with the character’s disrespect feeding into an honest respect for the reader. Willie Black’s trademark humor is sharp and relevant as ever. His jaded view of the changing world can and does lift at times. His rejection of religion is fierce, real, and vulnerable. And his recognition of life’s little lies is, “in all honesty,” all too true. Saving lives walks side by side with losing souls in this novel, as a child goes missing and the pastor at his after-school program comes under suspicion. Would the cops search harder for the missing boy if he were white? Would they dig harder after the killer if he weren’t rich? And will Willie Black find his man, lose his girlfriend, or end up dead? Waxing philosophical about healthcare reform, religion, and maybe grace, taking the risks no one else is willing to take, listening to cops and robbers all and earning their grudging respect, crossing boundaries and lines, Willie Black meets the grace of a loving woman, tries to throw it away, and offers grace to the bereaved, all in a wonderful novel of real, changing, trying, hoping, hurting people, making broken lives count. And he solves his case. Of course. Disclosure: I was given a preview edition by the publisher and I offer my honest review.