The gone dead A novel

Chanelle Benz

Book - 2019

Billie James' inheritance isn't much: a little money and a shack in the Mississippi Delta. The house once belonged to her father, a renowned black poet who died unexpectedly when Billie was four years old. Though Billie was there when the accident happened, she has no memory of that day, and she hasn't been back to the South since. Thirty years later, Billie returns but her father's home is unnervingly secluded: her only neighbors are the McGees, the family whose history has been entangled with hers since the days of slavery. As Billie encounters the locals, she hears a strange rumor: that she herself went missing on the day her father died. As the mystery intensifies, she finds out that this forgotten piece of her past ...could put her in danger.

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FICTION/Benz, Chanelle
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Suspense fiction
Mystery fiction
Detective and mystery fiction
Thrillers (Fiction)
New York : Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers [2019]
Main Author
Chanelle Benz (author)
First edition
Physical Description
293 pages ; 22 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

Benz's first novel combines brisk plotting and striking characterization to provide a compelling read. The layers, voices, and perspectives make this much more than the story of a woman trying to understand her father's death 30 years ago. Billie James returns to the Mississippi Delta and her father's house when she inherits it. In coming back, she confronts the reality behind the purported accidental death of the black poet Cliff James in 1972. Benz proves her virtuosity as a writer in providing us with Cliff James' vivid poems, the academic preoccupations of the Jamesian scholar Dr. Melvin Hurley, and the driven quest of Billie James, each made unique in voice and language. Benz uses alternating viewpoints to create a gripping picture of a town in which past and present seem so melded, and race relations play out in very personal stories. While race is front and center as a thematic focus, Benz displays an uncanny ability to draw individual portraits, which means that everyone, from the dog Rufus to Uncle Dee, Jim McGee, and cousin Lola, anchor it in reality.--Shoba Viswanathan Copyright 2019 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Benz's debut novel (after the collection The Man Who Shot Out My Eye Is Dead) is a rich, arresting exploration of racial injustice and the long shadows cast by family legacy. In the early aughts, 34-year-old Billie James inherits the former tenant's shack in the Mississippi Delta where her father, a renowned black poet, returned to live after abandoning her and her mother-and where he later died under mysterious circumstances. Billie, four years old at the time of his death, has not been back to the South since. Intending to fix up the house for renters and stay only a week or two, she's soon following evidence that indicates that her father's death might not have been an accident, taking her into dangerous territory in search of the truth. Populated by a cast of delightfully untrustworthy characters, and told from multiple points of view, Billie's quest to discover what really happened one night 30 years earlier is propulsive from the outset, culminating in a wrenching final scene. Just as discovering the truth of Billie's father's death is not enough to satisfy the novel's characters, there are no easy answers for readers, who will be haunted by the lingering effects of injustice. A beautiful and devastating portrait of the modern South, this book will linger in the minds of readers. (June) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

DEBUT Much like the first line of Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind, Benz's opening-"It's not exactly as she was picturing"-inspires readers to continue this debut novel, which follows in the picturesque style of the author's multi-best-booked story collection The Man Who Shot Out My Eyes Is Dead. The story centers on Billie James, who knows little of her father, Clifton, an underrated poet who died when she was four in an incident she cannot recall. Three decades later, she learns that she's inherited his modest, secluded home in the Mississippi Delta, as well as his belongings. As Billie uncovers his final writings, she simultaneously encounters locals who share more of her history than she ever knew. She also discovers that she went missing the day her father died, leaving her with a mystery to solve. The novel is beautifully written throughout, with descriptions of the land, sounds, and even Billie's dog, Rufus, especially enthralling. Benz's inclusion of Clifton's lost work make Billie's experiences authentic. -VERDICT Recalling Lalita Tademy's Cane River, this work will appeal to lovers of African American, Southern, and historical fiction. [See Prepub Alert, 12/17/18.]-Ashanti White, -Fayetteville, NC © Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

"Who could breathe under the weight of a genius father who was supremely brilliant and made a mysterious tragic exit?" Billie James hopes she can in this debut novel.Billie comes from literary royalty, but you wouldn't know it from the humble shack in the Mississippi Delta that she's just inherited from her grandmother. She spent time there during her early years, and it's where her father, Clifton, a gifted though underappreciated African-American poet, died under mysterious circumstances when his daughter was 4. Now in her 30s, and feeling the weight of not quite living up to her father's standard, Billie returns to the Greendale, Mississippi, of her childhood and begins to seek answers to the questions surrounding her father's death. As she turns stones long undisturbed, she makes a curious discovery: She was present when her father died, and yet she has no memory of the event. The ingrained tribalism of Clifton James' relatives, friends, and lovers makes them reluctantor only halfheartedly willingto reveal the long-buried truth and see justice served. Their inability to provide straightforward answers propels Billie on a dangerous path. When she discovers an unpublished chapter among her father's things, her determination shifts into high gear, putting her life in danger. The legacies of slavery, racism, segregation, and classism imbue the novel, along with the relentless insularity of small-town life. And yet the reader's foothold into this world is tenuous, much like Billie's as she is welcomed and repelled at the same time. Where the novel shines is in dialogue. The music of the spoken word shows that Benz (The Man Who Shot out My Dead Eye, 2017) has a strong ear and appreciation for Southern culture that rings true. Unfortunately, though, the reader is only occasionally steeped in the world of the novel.The thirst for justice is difficult to make palpable, but Benz makes a valiant effort. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.