I make it a point to review books that you may not have heard about. This month, though, I’m making an exception and I’ll always make an exception for a must-read. The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson is a must-read.
I’d had so much fun reading an earlier book of his, The Great Greene Heist, that when I heard Varian was coming out with a new mystery, it soared to the top of my Buy-It! list. I did buy it soon after its release, but I approached it like dessert, waiting to consume it as a special treat. And it was special.
It sets up like this:
When Candice Miller temporarily moves to her late grandmother’s house in small-town South Carolina, she finds a letter that reveals the first clue to a puzzle, which promises to lead to a fortune. With the help of Brandon, her neighbor, they embark on a path that not only brings them more clues, but also brings to light the ugly and beautiful truths surrounding the town and its inhabitants.
I often find books to love, but this is a book I wish I had written. I couldn’t have, though. I am not a colored boy born in the 1910s. I am not a Negro tennis player born in the 1940s. I am not a black girl born in the 2000s. Varian Johnson has taken realities of African American life from the Jim Crow South through the present, and he has expertly placed them in a context that helps further our understanding of the racism that did exist and still exists today. This piece is woven in so expertly, it becomes a natural and essential element to a very compelling mystery.
I can count, on one finger, the books I have re-read as an adult. Not only is that book, The Westing Game, mentioned in The Parker Inheritance, it influences Candice’s and Brandon’s quest. And I predict, within the next few months, the first sentence in this paragraph will no longer be true. I plan to start The Parker Inheritance over, from page 1, as soon as I have another reason to treat myself to reading dessert.
(Full disclosure: I’ve met Varian Johnson a few times, had dinner with him once but that, in no way, has influenced me choosing to talk about his book, nor has it shaped this review.)
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