Author: Rangeley Wallace

Publisher: Bev Editions

ISBN: 0-312-13571-8

Rangeley Wallace, who is a lawyer as well as a writer, was born in Birmingham, Alabama and in No Defense has effectively blended her southern sensibilities with her lawyering skills.

Wallace's protagonist, hard-headed LuAnn Hagerdon Garrett pregnant with twins, her husband Eddie and their daughter return one day from Atlanta to their home town of Tallagumsa, Alabama to attend the dedication of the new court house named in honor of LuAnn's father Newell Hagerdon. Newell is the town's mayor and has his eyes set on becoming the governor of Alabama.

When Newell offers LuAnn the keys to the town's only steakhouse, and considering that she was not exactly financially well-off in Atlanta, she decides to take him up on his offer and move back to Tallagumsa. Eddie, a struggling political cartoonist for Atlanta's City Paper is not ecstatic about the move and manifestly makes his feelings known to LuAnn. Nonetheless, Eddie accedes when he is offered a teaching position and an opportunity to syndicate his cartoon column. On the surface matters seem to be working out for LuAnn and Eddie, however, with both husband and wife quite occupied, their marriage begins to suffer.

While all of these events are happening, a reporter from Washington, D.C., Ben Gainey shows up in Tallagumsa to conduct research of the area for a book he plans to publish concerning the New South. Ben, with the egging on and manipulation of LuAnn, is persuaded to look into the unsolved murders of two black college students, Leon Johnson and Jimmy Turnbow that happened in Tallagumsa fifteen years ago. Apparently, just after Martin Luther King's “I Have a Dream” speech, these two students were shot driving to the state university a few hundred miles to the south. The school was under a federal court order to integrate and had the two made it to the school, they would have been the first black students to attend a white Alabama college.

When Ben queries LuAnn for her reasons why she is so obsessed with solving the case, she replies that there are several including her guilt and the fact that her father was the town's sheriff and was really upset at the time. She also explains that she raised money for building a memorial in honor of the two students and when she familiarized herself their families and friends, she was really hooked.

With Ben digging more deeply into the unsolved murders, LuAnn begins to regret her return to Tallagumsa. What LuAnn never counted on was the the hornets' nest she would be opening up and the chain of events that would be set in motion that eventually would have far reaching ramifications on her marriage, her family, as well as her sister's and mother's pain. Ben, who was reluctant at first to become involved, is now determined more than ever to solve the murders and to find out what really happened notwithstanding that there are several individuals who would have liked to see him drop the investigation.

Reviving a past horrendous event, Wallace has deftly recreated a believable time and place- a mythic redneck rural town in Alabama during the Civil Rights Movement. She has also cleverly interlaced into the story the power of secrets shared and secrets kept that unfortunately can come back to bite you with devastating consequences particularly when one of the parties involved is extremely tough, selfish, demanding and often cruel to those closest to him.

Wallace manages to keep things entertaining with her easily readable style complete with colorful townspeople, red herrings, adultery, and an unanticipated ending, however, I felt at times the story's tension was lagging in momentum and this was probably due to the delay in introducing the unfolding murder trial until half way through the book. Nonetheless, Wallace gives plenty of evidence that she is a writer capable of producing some great compelling plots and I look forward to hearing from her in the future.


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