Amistead, Feb 2001, 23.00, 304 pp.
Over two decades ago an assassin killed Malik Martin, a middle of the road African-American leader who was rising to a level that Martin and Malcolm would have envied. At his side at the time of the murder was his spouse Veronica, an actress who just was freed from an asylum. Though never obtaining closure on the senseless death of Malik, whose killer was never caught, Veronica needs to find their daughter Malika and hires private investigator Nina Halligan.
This simple missing person case turns into a grand tour of the urban African American pantheon. Nina, who feels an affinity with Veronica through the homicides of her own family, finds more than just a lost adult case. She begins to learn why both the White and Black establishment needed Malik removed as his approach to civil rights actually might have succeeded and has begun a revival that still remains in disfavor amidst the powerful.
BLACK HEAT is an exciting ethnic private investigative tale that brings home a different perspective on the Civil Rights movement. Though at times overloaded with subplots that subtract from a powerful main theme, the story line is extremely interesting and will hook the audience. Nina's flawed personality is in the reader's face, but her investigation requires that triple A personality type if anything is to be learned. Norman Kelley has written a superb mystery that will bring him many fans, who will want Nina to return, but next time without the Pinta and the Santa Maria.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner