A Dead Man’s Honor
A Lizzie Stuart Mystery, Book #2
By Frankie Y. Bailey
Author Website: frankieybailey(.)com
Crime historian Lizzie Stuart goes to Gallagher, Virginia for a year as a visiting professor at Piedmont State University. She is there to do research for a book about the 1921 lynching that her grandmother Hester Rose witnessed when she was a 12 year old child.
Lizzie’s research is complicated by her own unresolved feelings about her secretive grandmother and by the disturbing presence of John Quinn, the police officer she met while on vacation in England. Add to that the murder of an arrogant and brilliant faculty member on Halloween night and Lizzie has about all she can handle. (Goodreads)
What do murders and lynching from 1921 have to do with a Halloween murder today? In Gallagher, Virginia, in 1921, Officer Thomas Kincaid was shot by Mose Davenport when Kincaid and fellow police officers came to arrest Mose for the murder of Dr. Daniel Stevens. Mose was a black man who was friends with Ophelia, housekeeper for the doctor. Mose was involved with drugs and gambling. Kincaid left behind a young, pregnant wife. Mose left Ophelia behind, pregnant with his child, but not for long; Ophelia was found, hung, in her jail cell, after being arrested for being with Mose that fateful day.
Lizzie Stuart is an accomplished, tenured Criminal Justice professor in Kentucky who has been invited to teach at Piedmont State University in Gallagher as a visiting prof. Her grandmother, Hester Rose, had witnessed the lynching of Mose Davenport that long-ago day, and she never believed Mose murdered the doctor. She was only twelve years old and at Ophelia’s when the police came for Mose. Lizzie wants to learn more about it for a book she is writing, as well as the general climate of criminal justice in the post WWI years in Gallagher. This chapter of her life begins on the now-deceased Hester Rose’s birthday, Halloween.
It was an unusual day from the start. There were odd, borderline threatening items left for some of the professors in the Criminal Justice department. Professor Richard Colby is a brilliant theorist in white collar and corporate crime, recognized especially among African-American criminologists. Colby invited Lizzie to have lunch with him, and they met at Orleans Café, owned by a childhood friend of Hester Rose that Lizzie wanted to meet. Miss Alice wasn’t there, but her granddaughter Clovis, a childhood friend of Richard’s, was. They knew each other from long ago, and Clovis still called him by a childhood nickname.
Later that evening, they were among the attendees in an interactive play/ murder mystery that the theater department and School of Criminal Justice put on jointly. It looked as though Colby’s wife, a psychology professor, had an unhappy discussion with him and left, followed by another professor who appeared to have an interest in her. Quinn, the police chief for the university, chatted briefly with Lizzie. They met when both were in Cornwall, England, on vacation, and had been in minimal contact with each other since. A former homicide detective, Quinn applied for – and got – the police chief position at Piedmont not long after Lizzie accepted the opportunity to be there for a year.
After a young woman with a gun interrupted the play to threaten a grad student, the party broke up early. Richard and Lizzie went in their respective offices before they left. Lizzie heard a door slam, then the power went out. She went to see if Richard was okay, and found him dead, stabbed, in his office.
The university police invited the presence of the Gallagher police department while they did their investigation. Quinn, as the police chief, could not be involved in it because of his friendship with Lizzie, a witness and possible suspect. Lizzie is not impressed with De Angelo, the university detective, or the way he treats “Marcia, Honey” the Gallagher detective, but Quinn believes him to be a good cop.
The characters were each described well, but I didn’t feel I actually knew the characters well. I do like Lizzie; she is intelligent and cares about other people. I also liked Miss Alice and Clovis, who are loyal, loving women, despite Clovis’ volatile emotions. Miss Alice is the kind of lady I’d love to sit down with a cup of coffee and listen to! It is their honesty and vulnerability that is most attractive, even if the truth isn’t always pretty.
The complexity of the mysteries and suspects is appealing. Plot twists further make it a challenge to discover who might have killed Richard as well as Dr. Stevens in 1921. The writing is clear and detailed without wasted words or descriptions. There are clues leading to several suspects in each murder, yet I was unable to determine who the killers were. The stunning conclusion was a surprise, made sense, and resolved every open issue. I highly recommend this novel to anyone who likes good, clean mysteries that include history, interesting people, and a solid, challenging plot.
*OBS would like to thank the publisher for supplying a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review*