Southern Scribe
     our culture of storytelling


Mystery Review    




Salted With Fire
by Grif Stockley
Rose Publishing Company, Inc., 2001



Who wouldnít be shocked to find out that their best friend was accused of murder, and that he requested that you be his lawyer in the coming legal fight to exonerate him of it?

That is the question facing lawyer, Miller Holly. 

Cormorant Ashley, esteemed historian and childhood friend of Holly, is suspected in the shooting death of a black history professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Damascus Merriweather, with whom he has vehemently disagreed in the past.

The rub is that Merriweather was dying of stomach cancer anyway and Cormorant knew of the manís illness.  So, why kill him?  And why is he summoned to the  professorís home just before the death of the man?  Then, there is the scathing book that the black man has just written that indicts white Arkansans and gentry, revealing the names of families who may have fathered children by their black slaves.

Could that have had something to do with the manís death?   Judging by the hate mail he received just prior to his deathÖpossibly.  Add to the mix the black professorís brother, Ezekiel Merriweather, out promoting the book locally and nationally, fanning the flames of hatred that the book has generated.

How can Miller get a fair trial for his client in the atmosphere of racial and sexual discrimination-charged atmosphere of Little Rock with all this going on?  That is the problem Miller faces.

As always, the conversations, the duplicity of persons, the everyday grinding-out of conflicts is what author Grif Stockley is so good at portraying.  Miller Hollyís own life before the trial was teetering on the brink, his wife giving him an ultimatum: change or else.  Other friends and relatives float around Holly, sending signals he isnít sure he is misreadingóis anything as it seems? 

Donít look for satisfying answers here either, or a totally good/bad guy coloring of characters.  Stockley doesnít go in for that.  Instead, learn to read between the lines, all the way to the end.  Did his friend, Cormorant Ashley, kill the professor?  Maybe so, maybe notóand maybe that isnít the most important question that should be asked anyway.


Robert L. Hall
Southern Scribe Reviews

© 2002 Southern Scribe Reviews, All Rights Reserved