Mystery Review   

A Melungeon Winter
by Patrick Bone
Silver Dagger Mysteries, 2001
ISBN: 1-57072-143-2

Set in 1950’s Appalachia, A Melungeon Winter opens with the telling of the local mythology/warning: children, be good or the Melungeon will eat you. The Melungeon is the local equivalent to the Bogeyman. In reality, the Melungeons are long persecuted people who have been repeatedly relocated to higher and higher, less fertile ground. Melungeon is this story is not as terrifying as the mythology surrounding him, but extremely insightful into the prejudices of the locals.

At a track meet, a friendship is made between a white boy, Jubalee and a black boy, Robert. Their adventures lead them to the home of a local Melungeon man, who helps them strengthen their friendship despite the racial tones of the time. Particularly after, Jubalee is bullied and beaten by a white classmate, Duane Clemmon, because of his friendship with Robert. Despite his acceptance of Robert regardless of his race, Jubalee is beaten into calling his friend by a derogatory term. His guilt and self-loathing as a result of this utterance is assuaged by Robert and Mr. Mullins, the feared Melungeon. Soon after his father
confronts the bully’s father, the man is found dead; Jubalee’s father is arrested for the crime. The boys must discover how really killed Hatcher Clemmon. The three unlikely friend- Jubalee, Robert and Mullins, proceed to uncover the truth with the help of an equally motley cast of characters. Throughout their own lives are threaten by those responsible for the crime, people who wish Jubalee’s father to take the fall for their crime.

While the mystery is compelling, the real heart of the story is the relationship of the three that runs counter to the prejudices of the community, yet mirroring the changing and turbulent social atmosphere of the nation. The legends and stories of the Melungeon are intriguing particularly when the Melungeon’s voice is heard. A Melungeon Winter is bizarre, dripping with folk stories, racism, murder, and the color-blind friendship that binds them all together.

Tia Blassingame
Southern Scribe Reviews

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