Strange Fruit

Bryan David Hiltner. Vantage Press (www.vantagepress.com), $22.95 (184p) ISBN 978-0-533-15726-6
Loosely based on the 1955 murder of Emmett Till, Hiltner's first novel is an admirable attempt to illuminate the racism that plagued the American South, divided its citizens, and subverted justice. Told from the perspective of FBI agent Daniel Pierce, this procedural pairs a white agent with an African-American one, Franklin Jones, in an effort to illuminate both sides of the racially charged story. However, Hiltner's one-dimensional characters make it clear from the beginning for whom readers should be rooting. As soon as the agents arrive in the town where the murder took place, they're greeted by caricature after caricature: a perpetually smirking, cigar-chomping good-old-boy sheriff, a cantankerous old lady, and a racist hillbilly with a temper. Even more puzzling is that while attempting to make a statement about racism, Hiltner fails to present the agents as equals. Pierce is clearly calling the shots and frequently tells Jones what to do via condescending commands. Additionally, Hiltner's insistence on attributing every line of dialogue quickly grates. Hopefully, the book's sequel—at the novel's conclusion, Pierce is sent to Dallas to assist the presidential motorcade—will see Hiltner offering up a more carefully crafted historical whodunit.
Reviewed on: 07/11/2011
Release date: 04/01/2011
Genre: Fiction
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