By Lis Wiehl
A photograph is taken by an FBI agent of two little girls, one white and one black, at a civil rights rally in Fort Worth, Texas in 1965. The photograph is real and is a picture of the authoress, Lis Wiehl, when she was four years old. The FBI agent who took the snapshot is her father; the little African American girl is not identified.
When Lis’s father gives her the photo, it gives her an idea which she carefully weaves into a novel about a shooting at the civil rights parade in 1965. The non-violent civil rights advocate, Benjamin Gray, is shot to death when the group marches into the town square. Benjamin Gray is shot before he even gets to the podium.
As the shot is fired, Agent James Waldren pulls his gun while simultaneously grabbing his daughter, Lisa, and her new friend away from the area. The mother of the black child hits Agent Waldren, not understanding he is trying to protect her child as well. Agent Waldren’s associate, Agent Peter Hughes is on hand and they get separated in the confusion. This separation is symbolic of the schism that will be lifelong between the 2 agents who were once the best of friends.
Leonard Dubois, a former Black Panther, is in the crowd and he has a gun. He is indicted and convicted of the crime. He has proclaimed his innocence all this time, but that has not kept him from sitting on death row for 50 years. Agent Waldren believed that Dubois was innocent from day 1. For some reason, James, who is a methodical and tireless investigator, drops the case after a while, leaving Dubois to languish in prison. A date for Leonard’s execution finally comes and he makes a last ditch effort for freedom. He writes a letter to Agent Waldren asking him to solve the case and get him set free.
Agent Waldren is now retired and still lives in Fort Worth. He digs back into the case, and finds he can’t do it alone. There are too many missing documents and there seems to be a cover-up reaching high levels. He’s also an old man now and is not tech savvy. His friend, Rosalyn, a wacky private investigator with a beehive hair-do and green horn rimmed glasses, helps him. However, he needs to contact his daughter Lisa, a federal prosecutor, to help him since she can open some government doors that are now closed to him. She was there that day. She must remember something that would help the case.
He sends her the photo to jog her memory and then asks her to come to Fort Worth and assist him. She has no relationship with the man. She holds him responsible for her parent’s divorce. He was the distant father who would attend her track meets, but sit there with his head in a casebook, and never see her compete. She lives in Boston and has no intention of seeing her father again. She remembers very little of the events of that day in 1965. She refuses to go to Texas, until her good friend convinces her she should.
Lisa arrives in Texas and refuses to stay at her old home. She instead takes a room at a fancy hotel in Dallas. She avoids seeing her father wanting to help at a distance even while in Texas. But they do meet and though the ice doesn’t thaw, she can’t believe how old and weakened her father has become. As they dig deeper, lies and conspiracies pile up on top of one another. Even her father is keeping things from her. She doesn’t understand why Uncle Peter, as she named her dad’s partner, killed himself, let alone why the two stopped being friends. Why was her own father demoted? Can they find the black child from the snapshot? They are being followed. Someone has gone through Lisa’s hotel room, and someone has gone through her father’s house as well.
The reviews on the book say this is her best novel yet. For me, the beginning was kind of slow, but I persisted. Once the book’s action really began, I’d say about a 1/4 to 1/3 of the way into the story, it was very interesting and I could not put it down. The shootings of JFK and Robert Kennedy were woven in along with stories of how J. Edgar Hoover didn’t even trust his own men, how the Kennedys did not like or trust Lyndon Johnson. Pretty interesting stuff. I am giving this novel 4 out of 5 stars.
Do you believe in any conspiracy theories involving our government? I would love to know what you think.