When Ghosts Come Home
The Plot: Wiley Cash is known for multilayered plots that start as straightforward stories but soon evolve into thoughtful looks at how the past affects the present, adding in issues of race, class, justice, and greed. In When Ghosts Come Home, Sheriff Winston Barnes’ investigation into a plane crash on the coast of North Carolina and the death of a local Black man morphs into a look at the community and corrupt politics as well as a tender story about the relationship between a father and daughter. As he tries to fight crime, Barnes also battles for his job in a bitter re-election campaign against a crooked, and well-financed opponent who is an unabashed racist. Even some of the man’s own deputies are siding against him. Set in 1984, When Ghosts Come Home shows how far we have come—and how far we haven’t.
The Character: Sheriff Winston Barnes joins Cash’s other strong, complicated characters—good people up against those who often hide their dishonesty and shady side. And like Cash’s other characters, Barnes is flawed, haunted by past mistakes. His love for his family drives him as much as his quest for justice as he tries to help both his wife, who has cancer, and his daughter, who is grief-stricken over her stillborn baby.
The Author: Beginning with A Land More Kind Than Home, Wiley Cash has offered an incisive look at his native North Carolina, delving into its past and present, unflinchingly looking at racism and the evil that can drive people. Cash’s four novels, each a standalone, showcase his lyrical writing and are squarely in the tradition of Southern literature.
Wiley Cash’s debut, A Land More Kind Than Home, about the bond between two brothers landed on the New York Times Best Sellers List and received the Crime Writers’ Association Debut of the Year. His second novel, This Dark Road to Mercy, received the CWA’s Novel of the Year and was a finalist for the Edgar Award for Best Novel and the Southern Book Prize. He teaches fiction writing and literature at the University of North Carolina Asheville, where he serves as Alumni Author-in-Residence. He lives in North Carolina with his wife, photographer Mallory Cash, and their daughters.
MIA P. MANANSALA
Arsenic and Adobo
The Plot: Mia P. Manansala hits the ground running with Arsenic and Adobo, a sweet, poignant, well-plotted cozy about Lila Macapagal, a young woman who works at Tita Rosie’s Kitchen, a Filipino restaurant run by her aunt in Shady Palms, Illinois. More than good food is cooked up here as the landlord tries to close down the restaurant. And then there’s the poisoning of Derek Winter, a food blogger who always finds something negative to write about Tita Rosie’s cuisine, even though he is a regular customer who pretty much gorges himself on the myriad dishes every time. Oh, and Derek is Lila’s former high school boyfriend. Naturally, Lila is the prime suspect. A highly entertaining story— with recipes—about reinventing one’s life with a look at the Filipino culture. The author’s initial three-book deal ensures that this series will be around for a while.
The Character: The appealing, intelligent Lila Macapagal is trying to rebuild her life following a devastating breakup with her fiancé. Lila is the kind of character readers will immediately be drawn to and the author surrounds her with close friends, relatives who are a bit too involved with her personal life, and a loving (if overweight) dachshund. Plus, the novel will make you want to seek out the nearest Filipino restaurant.
The Author: Mia P. Manansala (MAH-nahnsah-lah) is a writer and book coach from the Chicago area. In receiving the Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award in 2018, Manansala said she believed the award was a way to continue Bland’s mission of inclusion.
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