Book Review: Severed: A Novel
Book Reviewed by Mel Hopkins
Severed, a Novel | A Black Woman’s Burden
Someone is a few digits short of a hand in Nakadee, Louisiana. What’s worse, someone may be torturing and holding the finger-less victim captive in this small river town. Head of Nakadee Police Department Criminal Investigations Unit Captain Nate Padgett enlists the help of Forensic Anthropologist Lula Logan, PhD whom he feels he can trust since she’s having an affair with his direct report Junior Detective Devon Lemonde.
Padgett needs Logan to find out if the victim is still among the living. Dead or Alive means the difference between a local investigation or handing it over to the Feds. Meanwhile Dr. Logan has her own project underway. She’s in town to work on research project that will tell the story of the enslaved Africans who revolted against their captors in 1830 on a former plantation.
Dr. Logan has her finger on the pulse of present missing fingers case and that of the enslaved Africans of the past …the question remains, however, which case will be her undoing.
Just in time for Mardi Gras, a story to satisfy your appetite for all things Louisiana Creole-Cajun cuisine.
Served up for your delight,
Severed, a Novel
A Crime Thriller charbroiled in a damning indictment of American society with a side of biting cultural and social commentary on the menu.
“A wine-soaked finger corking a bottle of sherry…”
delivered to the Nakadee Police Department to kick off the soiree. Unsure where to begin an investigation, the head of Criminal Investigations Unit Captain Nate Padgett and his Junior Detective Devon Lemonde invite their resident bones expert to lend them a helping hand.
Lula Logan, PhD (Osteology from UC Santa Cruz), Forensics Anthropologist, Professor at Nakadee University already has a full plate. Dr. Logan frequently appears on the national lecture circuit at various medical conferences to present “The Bare Bones of Forensic Anthropology” course. She teaches at the local university, while working on a National Park Service research fellowship to determine the life and death of enslaved Africans found on “the old Robert McAlpin plantation” in Natchitoches. The site is rumored to be mass grave site of enslaved Africans slaughtered in a Nat Turner-inspired uprising in 1830.
Adding to this Bouillabaisse, Dr. Logan is in the process of extracting herself from a dead-end love affair with the CIU’s Junior Detective Lemonde while watering a budding affair with a republican congressman, U.S. Rep. Ambrose Girabeaux (R-LA).
A ménage á trois made possible by the Police Chief, Allouicious Broussard, who has political aspirations. He also pressures Captain Padgett to close the case immediately. Broussard, Rep. Girabeaux, Tyrell Armstrong, MBE Certified and chemical engineer and other town leaders are preparing to meet to finalize a deal that will bring from Brazil to Nakadee a multibillion dollar natural gas pipeline project.
Padgett also needs Dr. Logan to find out if the victim is still among the living. Dead or Alive means the difference between a local investigation or handing it over to the Feds.
Dr. Logan’s quest for justice for the past could take a backseat to the present, if she chooses to assist in a crime-in-progress of the butchered finger case.
Enter the Unsub (Unknown subject of investigation) finger-butcher, possible serial killer who is hell-bent on revenge—but the answer to why is in the mirror held up to the protagonist.
Dr Logan believes her research will result in bringing justice to dead. In short, the bones of the enslaved Africans will reveal the harsh treatment they were subjected to, thereby validating the true story of slavery in America.
The locals, former confederates, including Sherry, a student and self-proclaimed white supremacist in Dr. Logan’s forensic class, believes Dr. Logan is stirring up ill-will from the past and the dead and past deeds should remain buried and covered up. Sherry, like most of the locals believe only the “glory of war” should drive the town’s historical narrative.
Dr. Lula says, [she]
“wanted to give voice to the horrors of slavery not as a politician, but as a scientist.”
Yet it’s Dr. Logan’s own need for validation that takes her off her research path to assist Captain Padgett, a man who didn’t acknowledge her presence, or existence upon their initial meeting. Padgett’s now needs her expertise to solve a crime thereby validating Dr. Logan’s need for legitimacy.
We learn of this need through her words in a conversation.
“What annoyed her [Dr. Logan], however, was that Sherry accepted Lula as a black ambassador, but not a scientist.”
Dr. Logan has several degrees and fellowships conferred upon her from several universities—including a doctoral degree, yet she longs to be validated as scientist by this young white woman who is her student.
While we, the reader, may not know the identity of the finger butcher we know of the butcher’s character flaws, i.e., error of judgment for it’s revealed through the Dr. Logan and the cast of characters.
Dr. Lula and others including a Hollywood production crew that have set up shop, exist in an atmosphere of patriarchy, bigotry and hate, fall victim to their weakened egos, insecurities, inadequacy, inner demons, false pride, greed, jealousy. In the quest to deem themselves superior they escape through drugs, theft, and seduction.
Through these characters, we see how far we’ll go to invalidate others while seeking validation and legitimacy.
These characters play zero-sum game with rules so easy it’s child’s play.
Case-in-point, in this current political climate a 7-year-old, Toby Smith from Arkansas, saw through this political game and exposed how our culture seeks to invalidate others to validate one’s supremacy.
Smith to Sen. Tom Cotton:
“Donald Trump makes Mexicans not important to people who are in Arkansas who like Mexicans, like me, like my grandma,” Toby Smith (Town Hall meeting, Arkansas, February 22. 2017)
After reading Severed 358 pages, unmasking the finger butcher didn’t come easy but solving the mystery of our society’s dysfunction was a cinch. We humans, especially most Black Americans are so busy looking for the ruling class to validate our existence, we leave the important stuff undone, work that would provide a route to legitimacy and self-actualization.
Instead, like Dr. Logan, we do the bidding and work of the ruling class to seek validation which usually nets a pat on head.
Fortunately for us readers, we’ve learned through our literature about the critical choice. We know our characters can choose between the “good but hard path” or the “bad but easy one.” The latter always brings a tragic ending.
Although Severed is a crime thriller and an entertaining whodunit, I recommend it as a self-help book to readers who are seeking to get out of their own way to become their best by validating their own talent.
Often, we will seek validation from others to feel good about ourselves without recognizing the destruction that we leave in our wake.
We’ll leave our noble causes by the wayside to join in or something that isn’t worthy of our time just win the approval from someone who doesn’t matter.
Severed allows us to experience the ramifications of the decisions we make, especially when the means never justify the end.
Severed forces the reader to separate goals from motives and determine which goals serve the greater good and which serve the weakened ego. The latter, we learn, always brings chaos, death and destruction whereas the former adds meaning to our lives and advances civilization.
Food for thought
Ths review originally appeared on melhopkins.com