Killer Nashville Book of the Day

A Negro and and Ofay by Danny Gardner
Reviewed by A. Grace Miller

A Negro and an Ofay by Danny Gardner, set in Southville, IL in the 1950s, delves into the world of crime and race in a way that feels new and fresh. Mixed-race Elliot Caprice has been restless since the day his mother abandoned him with his Uncle Buster. But when he wakes up hung over and at the end of his rope in St. Louis’ notorious, desegregated jail known as the Meat Locker, he’s about to realize there really is no place like home.

Elliot Caprice has hit rock bottom – except things keep getting worse. Once a Chicago cop, his attempts to do the right thing have brought him nothing but trouble and, after being on the run for a year, he has no place left to go. Caprice heads home, but once there, learns the family farm has been repossessed and his uncle’s health is failing. Desperate to put things right and make up for abandoning the uncle who raised him, Caprice finds a job serving papers for a local attorney—the son of the Jewish mobster Caprice collected for in his younger days. In an attempt to make extra money, Caprice agrees to hunt down missing chauffeur Alistair Williams in order to close a client’s last will and testament. It should be an easy job, but Elliot quickly realizes that everyone, including the mobster, is looking for Williams. As another body drops, the stakes get higher. Soon, the job to find Williams is just one of the seemingly impossible tasks Elliot needs to complete in order to get his life back.

Gardner’s writing electrifies the action and will enthrall you from page one. The spunky dialogue, written in dialect, makes every character colorful and unique. Gardner’s characters pop off the page. He melds the rich back-stories of his characters and the history of Southville so well that you will feel like you have known the people and the town for years. Meanwhile, the plot is packed with increasingly dangerous confrontations with impossible odds that will keep you turning pages until the end, and then wishing for more.

The deeper into the mystery Elliot gets, the less likely it seems that he will be able to survive. With the help of an unlikely crew—a mix of old friends and new, some lawmen and others outlaws—Elliot must learn to live with the many ghosts of his past in order to move forward with his life.

 

Grace Miller is a freelance writer and editor.