A HOLLOW CUP recounts the murder of a beautiful young woman and the effort, twenty-five years later, to find her killer. The novel has three parts. In "The Island" we see the characters growing up in the segregated South. Like most of the book, it presents events from the perspective of the two main characters, Pete Johnson and Luke Stanley. Luke is the first black student to attend New Hope's all-white schools. He and Pete become "friends," a relationship that weaves the strands of the novel together. The "charmed" childhood of the white children is compared to the more turbulent lives of their black contemporaries. The social issues of the day - the milieu in which the book's characters are formed - are examined. "The Mainland" is the end of childhood. Set in 1966, it describes the events that usher Luke and Pete into "the sepia world of grown-ups." They still play children's games, but the harsh truths of life and death increasingly order their lives. "New Hope," at the beginning and end of the book, describes the present-day (1991) action. Pete and Luke, still scarred by the past, return to town to investigate the crime and discover the "truth."
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The action takes place in the small southern town of New Hope, in the late 1950s and early 60s, and is a tale of racial tension, politics and murder. The younger protagonists of the story attend high school or college. The adult population of New Hope has more than a few rogues and villains among their number. The town is geographically split into black and white areas, and the council want to demolish the black school, which sits on prime real estate in the centre of town, and plan to replace it with apartments, shops and other businesses. They think this will revive the town's fortunes, but battle lines are drawn, and animosity is rife. During this long battle, a local girl is found murdered in the woods. She had been active in the struggle for equality, and had gained a few detractors. One of them, Big Mike, had been a target of her campaign, because he banned black people from eating at his diner. He was arrested for the crime, but eventually released due to lack of evidence, and no-one else was ever charged. We move the action on twenty-five years, and the case has been reopened, with the defence team being led by two of the victim's peer group from schooldays. They investigate the case and unearth dark secrets, and after many red herrings, we finally learn the true identity of the killer. The lives of the people of New Hope are cleverly crafted by the author, and their story is often sad, but you are left with the feeling that hope will return to New Hope. The stunning artwork on the cover is an original work by B N Bailey. A well written book and well researched, with a twist in the tail.