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Poet Henry Wise proves he has skill as a novelist in his debut Holy City. The southern thriller delivers in the atmosphere where the reader feels the humidity and division. What makes it unique is the buddy template that Wise uses it to give n unexpected narrative drive.

Will Seem has returned to his hometown of Euphoria County, taking a job as a sheriff's deputy. He pulls the local football hero out of his burning home to find him murdered, The sheriff ends his investigation when he arrests Zeke Hathom,. learning he was seen from the crime scene as the flames started. Will believes Zeke couldn't do it and feels an obligation to his family.

Many in the town's black community also feel Zeke was railroaded and raise money to hire private investigator Bennico Watts an African American woman who left the Richmond P.D. under a cloud. So her cover isn't blown, she will have to pretend to be Wills visiting girlfriend who is staying with him. Will doesn't like this for several reasons, one being that he is harboring Zeke's son, Sam, who has a drug problem and warrant on him.

Wise operates at a faster pace than many rural noir writers. There is a forward momentum that moves smoothly across the plotline without sacrificing the richness of the subgenre. This is partly due to the mystery he uses touching everything thing the book wants to explore about his two leads, the town, its citizens and social rot. His sense of place is represented in the different personalities Will and Bennico encounter as well as their own attitudes toward it.

The relationship between the two creates a lot of the depth and entertainment value of the book, The begrudging collaboration of these two mismatched misfits provides much of the humor in the often sobring and grim situations they are dealing with. They are two people broken by their past, searching for a form of redemption in exonerating Zeke. Wise establishes a strength and fragility in both of them, making us wonder how the two will work together and if they'll get together.

Holly City looks at how the old south still has a hold on the new. Times may change, but culture and ways of thinking move slower than those changes. Henry Wise gives a story about some good heart smashing up against the prejudice and injustice, hoping to at least make some cracks.


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