Simon & Schuster, Feb 2003, 25.00, 341 pp.
The summer of 1960 in Homeland, Florida would be hot just based on climate, but for several of the townsfolk, relationships turn even more heated. Seven-year-old Shiny Parker observes the Pastor Ned Jefferies nearly burned alive, but that is nothing to what else happens to him that fateful summer when the Preacher's wife and ten year old daughter Sharon Rose take over the lad's home following the fire. Because he accidentally sees Sharon-Rose naked, Shiny finds himself engaged to the older woman for compromising her. Even that pales next to eye witnessing a murder.
The engaged couple investigates the suspicious fire and soon finds a link to a two decades old murder. Walter Hughes was accused of raping Miss Mavis and her hero Halley Martin defends her honor by killing the accused. Halley and Mavis exchanged letters over the twenty years while he did hard time. Now he is to be freed and a reckoning is a coming as those who participated in the 1940 homicide are coming together for the final act with Shiny as the audience.
A BURNING IN HOMELAND is a strong southern historical novel that works on several levels because of a powerful cast. In some ways this gothic like tale is more of a character study, but Richard Yancey provides a deep gritty atmosphere with plenty action in a taut story line. Shiny with his woes of the world eases some of the tension with his humorous predicaments yet also keeps the powerful plot moving forward. Fans of mid twentieth century southern gothic will want to read this puissant tale.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner