A Rock and a Hard Place

genre/ noir, St. Martin’s/Minotaur,1999

From Publishers Weekly

Barrett Raines, the only black detective on an all-white police force in Deacon Beach, Fla., is forced to choose between his duty to society and his loyalty to his family in this unpolished yet promising debut. Barrett’s brother Delton has always been a thorn in his side. Despite Barrett’s stellar record, Delton’s reputation for womanizing and drinking has kept his sibling from getting the respect he’s long deserved in his racist hometown. Yet when Delton is accused of murdering a beautiful, popular white restaurant owner in a fit of passion, the only person between him and a lynching is Barrett. The cop arrests his brother and the evidence against Delton is powerful, if circumstantial and then sets out to unravel the truth, though his digging is complicated by his mistrust of his self-serving sibling. Barrett soon discovers that the killing may be tied to arms dealers based in Deacon Beach. Wimberley’s prose is spare and his dialogue catchy. The novel contains excess exposition that often interrupts momentum, however. In addition, a subplot involving Barrett’s wife and two sons drags on the narrative, and some of the switches in point of view can be confusing. In short, the book reads like a novel in search of a final draft. Wimberley’s launch may not be for readers looking for sophisticated intrigue and complex plotting, but its successful depiction of small-town corruption should appeal to those with a fondness for the pulpy side of the tracks. (July)

From Library Journal

Detective Barrett Raines overcomes racial prejudice to become the first black detective on the Deacon Beach, FL, police force. When his ne’er-do-well older brother stands accused of murdering a popular white woman, however, local prejudices reemerge. Can Barrett maintain the equilibrium necessary to investigate the case and fend off the unwanted stress? He can, and he follows a tiny clue that leads from purported blackmail to money laundering and gun smuggling. Glittering nuggets of detail, energized prose, and an admirable detective make this first mystery most worthwhile. Strongly recommended.

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