After attending a charity fundraiser, private investigator Smokey Dalton and his powerful girlfriend discover a critically injured woman in his neighbor’s apartment, and his neighbor missing. Smokey gets the woman to a nearby hospital which proves to be a mistake: the doctor won't treat the dying woman until she tells him what happened to her.
Smokey works to save the woman and find his neighbor, but everything he does makes the situation worse. Smokey has entered a secret part of America - the arcane rules of a hospital trying to follow the law as well as save lives. None of it makes sense, and all of it threatens everything Smokey believes in.
"With Stone Cribs, her fourth Smokey Dalton mystery, Kris Nelscott can lay claim to the strongest series of detective novels now being written by an American author." (Salon.com)
"Without the slightest hint of preaching, Nelscott brilliantly illuminates the ugliness of that era - which defines Smokey’s world but does not destroy him. Because of Nelscott’s strong hand, it also does not overwhelm the drama of this remarkable story." (Publisher’s Weekly)
"Like the best of Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer stories, Kris Nelscott’s Smokey Dalton novels are infused with an understanding of the social, political, and moral complexities of the community in which they’re set. Her characters not only struggle with the contradictions that rule them but are in perpetual conflict with their surroundings. Thus, brutality is no surprise, but then neither is an act of kindness. The most dilapidated building may house a gentle soul or a rabid criminal, and so too may a luxurious home. This type of subtlety treats readers with a level of respect that makes for a rich, rewarding experience, and so it is with Stone Cribs, Nelscott’s exceptional new novel." (The Boston Globe)
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- Frank C. Walton
THE BEST IN THE SERIES TO DATE
This is cultural historical fiction as well as mystery thriller. (Normally thrillers are too stressful, and a couple of times I've had to take a break, even to stretching out time between purchases, but this particular story seemed sterling for me.) A favorite combination is a good writer whose characters and lives grow on you and through the series. I'm amazed at Kris Nelscott, the name one of several noms des plumes. If she is the face of modern feminism, I am particularly impressed. She can make the hatred, crime, despair and destruction seem so alive, but leave you almost inspired by how the characters handle their challenges. She has created a virtuous man, Smoky Dalton aka Bill Grimshaw, who lives by his own intuition, and is tough enough to make survival, moral decisions in a very limited, dangerous milieu, which is Chicago in the 60's where blackness had splintered into not only the extreme disadvantaged poor, the criminal poor, the middle and slowly burgeoning professional class, but also the Panthers, and two other militant street groups. (This story seems so coherent and tightly woven, I stayed glued longer than usual.) It opens dramatically with a cousin of his beautiful neighbor, barely heard behind a locked door, calling for help. Smoky and his white girlfriend are returning from a charity event, and do everything, including knocking down the door, and rushing to the hospital in the leather seated Mercedes to help this poor woman, who appears to be hemorrhaging from a possible abortion. Nothing seems to go right when they get her to the hospital and have to fight to get her help. The story weaves in current attitudes toward black women, her neighbor, her ex-husband , and her family,all of whom are intertwined in some way with this tragedy but each story of which is revealed in a timely, understandable way. I love not getting mixed up by who is whom. (Kris even has Smokey call (in his thoughts) some dangerous characters Goatee, Glasses, Punk, Bass Voice, so you aren't overwhelmed by new characters whom you will know only a short while.) She answers all questions, and ties up all threads by the end of the story. This could only have evolved out of all that had gone before, including that Smokey and his "adopted" son who witnessed the true murderer of MLK Jr.,had to leave Birmingham and do their best to survive in an inimical environment for black people, wherever they might go.
The narrator, a really cute black guy, does an engaging and appropriately emotive job. You really get involved.
- Lanna S. Seuret