WHISPERS IN THE DARK by Eleanor Taylor Bland
A MARTI MACALISTER MYSTERY
St. Martin's Minotaur, November 2001
While African American police detective Marti Macalister pursues the mystery of the detached arms found in her county, her best friend Sharon considers running from her dying mother by marrying a relative stranger--a man who claims to love her but who tells her little of her past. Arms, without matching fingerprints, offer little hope of any identification and, as the arms were found over a number of years, they might not even be related to one another. Still, there seems to be a possible link to the artistic community. With that slim clue, Marti goes to work.
Author Eleanor Taylor Bland is completely convincing in her descriptions of African American life, the extended and generation-skipping families that some of them find themselve in, and in her descriptions of both slum and middle-class black life. The Sharon subplot comes to the forefront in the second half of this novel and is by far the stronger of the two major mysteries. Sharon is a disturbing, often unlikeable, and yet still sympathetic character as she continues to deny the reality that she faces.
While Marti is active in pursuing the truth in both of these mysteries, to a large extent, her efforts do not result in the resolution of the crime. Many readers may also find that the two subplots are insufficiently connected t justify being told in a single novel. These two subplots are actually connected by the shared theme of family and the damage that a misplaced or missing mother-love can create, but are unconnected from the plot perspective. Bland's capable writing carries the reader through the plot holes and leads to a reader-satisfying conclusion.
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