cover image A Calamity of Souls

A Calamity of Souls

David Baldacci. Grand Central, $30 (496p) ISBN 978-1-5387-6502-9

Bestseller Baldacci’s stirring latest (after Simply Lies) finds Black Vietnam veteran Jerome Washington on trial in 1968 Virginia for murdering Leslie and Anne Randolph, his married white employers and two of the most prominent citizens in fiercely segregated Freeman County. After washing the Randolphs’ Buick, Jerome entered their house to get his weekly pay, only to find their bloody corpses on the floor. He tried to “help them out,” he says, by moving them off the ground, but just as he was propping Anne up into a chair, the police arrived and placed him under arrest. Certain of his innocence, Jerome’s grandmother-in-law reaches out to Jack Lee, a local white criminal defense lawyer, who agrees to take the racially charged case despite his lack of experience with murder trials. Feeling immediately out of his depth, Jack teams up with Desiree DuBose, a Black attorney at the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund; together, they work to save Jerome from the electric chair. Baldacci generates satisfying tension from Jack and Desiree’s clashing personalities, and his real-life experiences both as an attorney and as a child in 1960s Virginia lend the proceedings an air of uncommon authenticity. This ranks among the author’s best. Agent: Aaron Priest, Aaron M. Priest Literary. (Apr.)