The first in the Smokey Dalton historical mystery series.

Publication year: 2001
Format: Audio
Narrator: Mirron Willis
Running Time: 11 hrs, 20 m

Smokey Dalton is a black man, living in Memphis in 1968. He has managed to get a good education but has chosen to become a private detective for the local black people but to white people he’s just doing “odd jobs”. So, when a white woman walks into his office, he’s quite surprised. Then Laura Hathaway tells him that her mother has left Smokey a sizable sum of money in her will and Laura wants to know why. However, Smokey doesn’t know the Hathaways and becomes curious himself. He takes the case and starts to look for any link between himself and the rich white woman. Years ago a mysterious benefactor gave him a lot of money and Smokey suspects now that Laura’s mother did that, too.

Smokey is a smart and thoughtful man. He’s also good at his job and looks after people close to him. He’s an orphan and doesn’t have any siblings but he’s taken a couple of young men under his wing. Their mother isn’t capable to taking care of them and it seems that they could easily turn to crime.

The story is set against the backdrop of Memphis sanitation workers’ strike during which the racial tensions between whites and blacks reach a boiling point. Also, Martin Luther King Jr. is Smokey’s old friend, from elementary school. Smokey’s afraid that King is in danger and is trying to protect King when he comes to Memphis.

The historical time and place which comes to life in the book. As far as I can tell, the racial tensions are described well and believably. Several times we get to see that the white people honestly have no idea how blacks are treated. Many whites also behave with a casual racism.

The characters are great and I thoroughly enjoyed the book. That’s not surprising because Nelscott is a pen name for Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

I also really enjoyed the reader; he was perfect for Smokey’s voice.