cover image The Trees

The Trees

Percival Everett. Graywolf, $16 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-64445-064-2

Everett’s sharp latest (after Telephone) spins a puckish revenge fantasy into dark social satire underpinned by a whodunit. In the archetypal Southern town of Money, Miss., someone is knocking off white men, most with a history of racist views. The first victim is Junior Junior Milam, his skull bashed in and his pants pulled down. Near Junior Junior’s corpse is another, the body of an unidentified Black man. The mystery intensifies with the appearance of more racist white victims, each with a Black corpse laid beside them. Deepening and complicating the story: the Black corpses all disappear, and are replaced by photographs of Emmett Till. The novel unfolds over a hundred super-short chapters, allowing Everett to maintain a breakneck pace as the crime spree spreads north, the FBI becomes involved, and the president weighs in with a painfully tone-deaf address. Everett delves into a miasma of racist stereotypes held toward and among multiple groups, sometimes with the same sophomoric humor applied to characters’ loopy names. (A pair of Asian detectives are named Chin and Ho, a reference to a character from Hawaii Five-O ; Kyle-Lindsay Beet is the High Grand Serpent of the Revived Brotherhood of White Protectors.) Still, this timely absurdist novel produces plenty of chills. (Sept.)