Bantam, Apr 2002, 24.95, 338 pp.
In Good Hope, Virginia, no one voices an unkind word when black man Elijah Waddell and white woman Clare Epps married. When Clare gives birth to their daughter born without a brain, the infant dies almost immediately. Clare's grandmother Rosy, a key member of the Victory Baptist Church, has her great-granddaughter Nora Carol buried in her church's all-white cemetery. However, the church deacons remove the casket from the Victory Baptist Cemetery and has Nora Carol reburied at the nearby black Zebulon Baptist Church.
That same night the Victory Baptist Church is destroyed and Elijah is arrested, charged with arson as he is caught watching the fire. Judge Baron orders former Assistant District Attorney Nat Deeds to return home from Richmond to defend Elijah. Nat does not want the case and prefers Elijah to plea bargain. However, the case turns to a murder charge when the cooling ashes of the church reveal the remains of the teenage daughter of redneck Sheriff Talley.
SCORCHED EARTH is an exciting small town southern drama that looks deep into racial relationships from various perspectives. The story line is loaded with action though contains a twist too many as the arson charge already provided readers with incredible insight into the various characters. The cast except for the stereotyped sheriff is a deep, complex group whose interrelationships add fathoms to them so that the audience understands each one's values and beliefs. David L. Robbins turns a bright spotlight on death and race so that those fans that appreciate a strong human drama will want to read.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner