Which transgression is punishable by lynching? Looking at a white woman? Asking for a job? Return a bottle for the deposit? Discussing the future? Answer: All of the above.
What is lynching? Hanging? Beating? Whipping? Mutilation? Before an audience of women and children? Before your family? Answer: All of the above.
Alex Cross's TRIAL by James Patterson (and Richard Dilallo) follows Ben Corbett, a Harvard-educated, Yankee lawyer who returns to his small, dirt-poor hometown in Mississippi to investigate the officially non-existent crime of lynching. In this thriller, Ben Corbett discovers more brutality and violence than I'd like to see in a novel, much less imagine in real life.
Mark Twain wrote that a single brave man could stop a lynch mob (here) and throughout this book we meet several brave men and women: Ben Corbett, of course. An black healer, Aunt Henry. L.J. Stringer, a rich inventor. Moody Cross, a wise teenage girl. Throughout the book, like Mark Twain, we hope that there are enough brave folk to stop the lynching. Hope, bury another lynching victim, and turn the page, keep hoping.
As a child of the Civil Rights movement, I didn't think I needed a reminder of the brutality of the 100 years following the Civil War, but maybe I did. No easy answers here, but great reading regardless.
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