cover image The Gone Dead

The Gone Dead

Chanelle Benz. Ecco, $26.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-249069-8

Benz’s debut novel (after the collection The Man Who Shot Out My Eye Is Dead) is a rich, arresting exploration of racial injustice and the long shadows cast by family legacy. In the early aughts, 34-year-old Billie James inherits the former tenant’s shack in the Mississippi Delta where her father, a renowned black poet, returned to live after abandoning her and her mother—and where he later died under mysterious circumstances. Billie, four years old at the time of his death, has not been back to the South since. Intending to fix up the house for renters and stay only a week or two, she’s soon following evidence that indicates that her father’s death might not have been an accident, taking her into dangerous territory in search of the truth. Populated by a cast of delightfully untrustworthy characters, and told from multiple points of view, Billie’s quest to discover what really happened one night 30 years earlier is propulsive from the outset, culminating in a wrenching final scene. Just as discovering the truth of Billie’s father’s death is not enough to satisfy the novel’s characters, there are no easy answers for readers, who will be haunted by the lingering effects of injustice. A beautiful and devastating portrait of the modern South, this book will linger in the minds of readers. (June)