cover image Monument: A Willie Black Mystery

Monument: A Willie Black Mystery

Howard Owen. Permanent, $29.95 (256p) ISBN 978-1-57962-647-1

The summer of Black Lives Matter protests provides the backdrop for Owen’s exceptional 11th mystery featuring Richmond, Va., newspaper reporter Willie Black (after Jordan’s Branch). As Willie focuses on vandalism and counterprotests regarding “the overabundance of Confederate statuary” along Monument Avenue, a middle-aged couple, the Kellers, are murdered in their home above their used bookstore. The reporter gets pulled into the story on a personal level when he learns his first wife’s 19-year-old son, who’s on the autism spectrum, was caught on a security camera leaving the crime scene and is now on the run. The daily tumult makes grudging allies of Willie and media-loathing police chief L.D. Jones, who must walk an especially fine line as “an African American police chief in a city where half the population and nowhere near half the money is Black.” In a city on edge, the chief is fired briefly and rehired, but Willie makes the most of Jones’s time out of office to dig deeper and find a plausible suspect from the Kellers’ past. The wild action that results from Willie’s successful flushing of the real killer is bracing and crisp, and the tragic coda shows that solving a terrible crime is no guarantee of a happy ending. Owen has outdone himself. (Nov.)