”Holloway’s debut novel will take you on a journey that reveals a fresh, richly layered, and rarely seen — or imagined — view of early twentieth-century black life and society. Fascinating characters, rich period detail, secrets, scandals, power, privilege, poverty, and plenty of plot twists make for an unforgettable and unflinching glimpse into a world that many will find surprising, mysterious, and possibly even mythical. Others of us know how real this world was, is. Nella [Larsen] would be pleased.” —Virginia DeBerry, coauthor of Better Than I Know Myself
Holloway, the James B. Duke Professor Emerita of English and Law at Duke University, weaves a page-turning mystery in the bon vivant world of the Harlem Renaissance. Taking as her point of departure the tantalizingly ambiguous “death by misadventure” at the climax of Nella Larsen’s 1929 best-selling novel Passing, Holloway takes readers back to the sunlit boulevards and shaded sidestreets of Jazz Age New York. A murder there will test the mettle, resourcefulness, and intuition of Harlem’s first “colored” policeman, Weldon Haynie Thomas.
Clear glass towers rising in Manhattan belie a city where people are often not what they seem. For some here, identity is a performance of passing — passing for another race, for another class, for someone safe to trust. Thomas’s investigation illuminates the societies and secret societies, the intricate code of manners, the world of letters, and the broad social currents of 1920s Harlem.
A Death in Harlem is an exquisitely crafted, briskly paced, and impeccably stylish journey back to a time still remembered as a peak of American glamour. It introduces Holloway as a fresh voice in storytelling, and Weldon Haynie Thomas as an endearing and unforgettable detective.
Holloway’s novel is one of those rare literary jewels from an African American author that will be a proud and prized addition to bookshelves everywhere for years to come.
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