Whilst the author does not say exactly when this tale takes place, I got the impression it was set in the 50's in small town USA, as white people and black people were not equals; in fact there was a big class divide. Words and expressions like 'negro' and 'nigger' and 'he was a cafe au lait' are used, and wealth and names made kings of people in the small town. And you could get a shot of bourbon in a bar for a dollar, and a three Cokes for the same!
I found it very interesting book, as I know nothing of that era, other than in history books, and found myself engrossed in it from day 1: in the way small town society worked, the gossip grapevine, how people could buy and ostracise others just with the power of a name and social position. It has a whole host of characters.
Jade, the main character, has dark hair and mocha skin; her white mother, Lucille, is a former drunken wildchild (now THE local lady with a name and social power). Jade is shunned by the locals as her father was apparently a 'cafe au lait' jazz musician, who scarpered before he even knew about her. She has been raised by black parents who work for her birth mother, and is a talented hairdresser and beautician, and also fills in for the mortician. When she is dressing the dead, she asks them what they would like as their final look, and receives a vision.
Jonah and Ruth work for Lucille, and are Jade's adotive parents. Ruth hates Lucille and the fact that there can be no life for Jade in their town. Jonah has known Lucille since her birth, and both loves her and hates her, which causes trouble with Ruth.
Lucille's legitimate daughter, Marlena, caught the richest guy who know owns most of the town, Lucas, but he is a cold fish, to the degree that when she is brutalised and raped, and their daughter Susannah is abducted, he barely shows any emotion. Marlena has been having an affair with a travelling salesman, and was on a tryst when her daughter was abducted. Lucas has crossed and cheated several people who might want revenge on him, and begins sleeping with his wife's best friend the day after her attack.
Frank, a deputy sheriff, is in love with Jade, and is the only person who treats her as a white woman. He was involved in the war, was taken as a POW, and has been awarded two Purple Hearts and a Silver Star - and the ability to see ghosts. He lives in a house where several of his ancestors died, and regularly 'sees' them, and he is the one leading the investigation.
Huey the sheriff is more PR man and politician than lawman, leaving the proper work to Frank. Additionally, he is a Lucas yes-man, as is the coroner, Junior Clements.
The tale is about trying to find Susannah, but Marlena won't tell the truth as she is scared Lucas will find out about her affair and will take her child from her. But all is not as it seems, as she starts to recall things once she's out of her coma...and some rednecks are thrown into the mystery, as is a missing woman who had a connection to Lucas many years ago, a seemingly innocent man meets with a violent end, there is brief mention of the KKK, and Lucille reveals a secret to someone who has been at her side for many years.
It was an excellent mystery, with several twists that I didn't see coming, and an outcome that was sad for many characters, but joyous for some...I hope that justice ended up being done, but given the characters with power, I'm not sure that was the case.