Editors Note: This is the first half of a doubleshot review. On Wednesday we'll have another review of the same book from ?wazithinkin.
This is a story about how the Ku Klux Klan operated in Florida in the nineteen fifties, leavened with a sprinkling of southern conjure magic. Turns out the KKK aren’t very bright and it is easier to confuse them than you might think, or might be deemed wise, considering they like setting fire to things and are usually heavily armed. So, a silent approach might work best: a bow and arrows?
Malcolm R Campbell is an author who has lived in the Florida panhandle (where this novel is set) and is old enough to remember the final days of the KKK. His anger about that organisation continues to burn, and this is an angry book. Coincidentally, it has been released when we must, once again, reiterate that Black Lives Matter and that racism is a foul thing which must be resisted wherever it is encountered.
I enjoyed this book a lot. It’s set in Torreya, a fictional town in the Florida panhandle, in the mid nineteen fifties. Domination by the KKK ran deep at that time in those southern places. All the same, although it put their lives in danger, there were those who resisted.
Campbell’s cast of characters include people the reader has met before in the first three books of his Florida Magic series. Favourites Eulalie, Willy Tate and the mind-speaking cat, Lena are present once again. However, Pollyanna, is the main protagonist this time and other new and interesting characters also have parts to play. It is difficult to say more without massive spoilers. Suffice it to say, Pollyanna is not simply the hard-drinking blonde she appears to be. She has as many layers as an onion, and great courage.
Pollyanna is a whizz with figures, and is untangling hardware store proprietor Lane Walker’s accounts. But why does she linger in Torreya? Jack Slade runs a diner in town. The local police and other local dignitaries frequent his tables. They are all Klansmen. Silent Sparrow comes in every day too. She’s a bag lady who collects the deposits on pop bottles to get by. The Klansmen don’t bother to keep their voices down. Nobody dare stand against them. Chief of Police Rudy Flowers is an honest man. But one honest man can’t make a lot of headway against generations of ingrained KKK activity.
However, it turns out that the days of the Klan in Torreya are numbered. An archer starts picking off some of the KKK’s grand panjandrums. Why? Just to tease them really. To set them against each other. So that they make mistakes.
The action keeps on coming. The conversations, the come-backs and put-downs are delightful. Much damage is caused and characters one has come to care about die. Not all of them are brought back to life.
You do not need to have read Campbell’s previous three Florida Magic novels in order to get great enjoyment from this.
Some adult language.
A small number of proofing errors.
Rating: ***** Five Stars
Reviewed by: Judi Moore
Approximate word count: 35-40,000 words