Penumbra by Carolyn Hines

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In the 1950s in Drexel, Mississippi, the color barrier remains rigidly in place with each race understanding their sphere. Jade Dupree is raised by her black adopted parents, Jonah and Ruth, although her biological mother is the very socially powerful white Lucille. Jade’s half sister Marlena is married to the wealthiest and most powerful figures in town, Lucas Bramlet. Marlena treats Jade like a servant paying her for services rendered including watching her daughter Suzanna.

Marlena accompanied by Suzanna meets her lover, a traveling salesman, by the river. However, men wearing masks attack them. Marlena is rushed to the hospital while Suzanna has vanished. Jade is there watching over Marlena but her husband is at home waiting for a ransom.  Jade has to be careful as some whites feel she needs to be reminded of her place and she has to be careful of the Peeping Tom who is stalking her.

Carolyn Haines known for her lighthearted amusing paranormal mysteries has taken a 180 degree turn around with this dark foreboding historical suspense thriller. Readers see how bad things can get for Blacks living in a 1950’s deep South small town even for a woman who could easily pass as white. The audience becomes absorbed with the historical tidbits, but soon the question of who assaulted the mother and daughter takes center stage especially in light of a spouse who does not seem to care what happens to his wife and daughter and whether Jade faces retribution for breaking the color barrier. Ms. Haines writes a strong period piece.

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