"The little girl whose father had died with his secretary and a single suitcase would forever be in there, looking out on a world filled with unfairness and betrayal."

In the town of Split Tree, blacks outnumber whites, except for virtually any degree of community status. Therefore it's not surprising that when a young black girl is found dead in the river, few authorities care to expend anything more than rudimentary energy in finding out why. Big Ray, however, whose own past harbors echoes of similar malevolence, is hellbent on coming up with answers. He begins an investigation that rankles some, worries others, and reignites embers in relationships too far along to reverse yet too intense to ignore. Big Ray starts, as he might put it, knowing squat. But as he picks up potential leads, he's not averse to using physicality as well as psychology to get the information he needs. Soon revelations start to surface that illuminate long-held secrets and unknown alliances. Just as it seems the puzzle is essentially solved, Big Ray uncovers a missing piece that changes everything.

Writing in the first-person voice of Big Ray, a small-town police chief in Arkansas circa 1957, author Holland sweeps readers into a world of pride, prejudice, recriminations, and regret as he fills page after page with smile-inducing metaphors, similes, and down-home descriptive prose that graciously lightens the load of a harrowing event at the heart of this compelling mystery. This is the kind of book one doesn't want to stop reading. Holland's plot initially seems standard, but it isn't. His characters are drawn vividly. They're made memorable by their very human relationships, plus the charismatically colloquial quality of their dialogue and Big Ray's narration. This author's style brings to mind the best of Pete Dexter, but both the story and the voice are all Holland, a truly excellent writer.

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