cover image Decent People

Decent People

De’Shawn Charles Winslow. Bloomsbury, $27 (272p) ISBN 978-1-63557-532-3

Winslow (In West Mills) chronicles the aftermath of a triple homicide that rocks a segregated Southern community in his dynamic latest. Residents of mid-1970s West Mills, N.C., become embroiled in the shooting of Black siblings Marian, Marva, and Laz Harmon, after local authorities turn a blind eye. Spearheading the citizen-led investigation is Jo Wright, who moved back to her birthplace after decades in Harlem to retire and marry her childhood sweetheart, Olympus “Lymp” Seymour, the half-brother of the murder victims. Amid speculation of drug deals gone bad, medical malfeasance (Marian was a pediatrician), and other motives, Jo digs into the case, bringing up painful secrets about the town’s history. A bevy of characters offer their personal histories and perspectives on the town’s racial woes, among them Savannah, Marian’s best friend who chose to be with a Black man against her white family’s wishes; and Eunice, who sent her queer teenage son La’Roy to Marian in the misguided hope of having “the gay removed.” There are a trove of surprises along the way to the well-earned resolution, and Winslow entrances readers with strong characters, impeccable prose, and brisk pacing. As a character-driven mystery, it delivers the goods. (Jan.)