The Gone Dead by Chanelle Benz
Billie James returns to the Mississippi Delta after a thirty year absence. She’s inherited her father’s old home that has set vacant for so long it’s little more than a shack. All that Billie knows is that when she was four years old her father Cliff was found dead in his front yard. The police claim Cliff was intoxicated and died from a fall. In 1970’s Mississippi, that was as far as the investigation into a black man’s death would go.
Billie has taken a short leave from work in Philadelphia to try to fix up the old house and reconnect with her past, especially her father’s family.
When she meets Jerry Hopsen, a man who knew her father, the conversation eventually turns to Cliff’s death and Jerry mentions Billie’s disappearance that night.
This news come as a complete surprise to Billie, who had no idea she was with her father on the night he died, let alone that she was missing for a time.
How long exactly was she missing? Where was she and who was she with during that time? No one seems willing to answer these questions, including her Uncle Dee, who waves it off as a simple misunderstanding.
When Billie finds what appears to be one chapter out of a full manuscript of her father’s, she calls in a scholar who has been researching Cliff’s life for a biography to help her investigate.
Searching for the rest of the manuscript and asking questions about Cliff’s death stirs unrest in a small town that would rather forget the past and Billie finds the closer she gets to the truth, the more danger she is in.
The Gone Dead is a great combination of literary fiction and mystery. It covers the effects of racism in past and present, family secrets, and the motivations for both seeking truth and letting the past stay buried through the narration of several characters.
The story was a slow burn that builds up a few plot points but the climax felt rushed, making the storytelling uneven and unfocused at times. That said, it was still an intriguing read.
Thanks to Ecco and Edelweiss for providing me with a DRC in exchange for my honest review. The Gone Dead is scheduled for release on June 25, 2019.