When Ghosts Come Home

Morrow. Sept. 2021. 304p. ISBN 9780062312662. $28.99. M
Cash (The Last Ballad; A Land More Kind Than Home) dips into crime fiction with this novel set in 1984 coastal Oak Island, NC, where racial tensions are high, and developers are snapping up land to build houses for wealthy Northern “second homers” and transplants. Sheriff Winston Barnes is facing a tough reelection battle against odious local bad boy Bradley Frye and dealing with his wife Marie’s cancer diagnosis. When a plane crash-lands in the middle of the night at the local airport, Winston arrives on the scene and finds an empty airplane and the body of Rodney Bellamy. He needs to solve the case and find Rodney’s murderer before the election as well as comfort his daughter Colleen, who has returned to her parents’ house after losing a baby. He also must contend with racists who terrorize Rodney’s young widow Janelle and imply that Rodney was involved in drug dealing.
VERDICT Cash excels at conveying realistic family and community dynamics and creating complex characters, at least with the Barneses. Other characters, especially the cartoon-like villain, are not as deftly written. Mystery readers might quibble with a sizable plot hole and a rushed but shocking ending, but Cash’s fans and readers of Southern stories will enjoy.
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