By: Pat Austin
SHREVEPORT – Every now and then I have to step back from politics, take a break from the insanity, and escape in a good novel. When I find a writer or a novel that’s really, really good, I like spread the word.
As a longtime fan of Michael Henry’s novels, I was thrilled to find his latest, Murder in the Grove, is now available on Amazon in Kindle format (the paperback should be available by the end of this week if you prefer). Mr. Henry is a sort of local celebrity – he was a prosecutor in nearby Natchitoches parish where he practiced civil and criminal law, twelve of those years as District Attorney. His novels are a cross between John Grisham and Michael Connelly. If you like either of those two guys, you’ll love Mr. Henry’s books.
Murder in the Grove is a very timely novel; retired prosecutor Willie Mitchell Banks has moved to Oxford, Mississippi where he is content to live quietly, sipping vodka tonics and playing golf at the local course with his weekly group until he is approached about looking into a cold case that involves the murder that occurred during the September 1962 Ole Miss riots when a black military veteran enrolled in Ole Miss. Federal and state forces were embroiled in violent clashes with southern segregationists and in the end there were two dead and many injured.
It falls to Willie Mitchell to find out what happened to a young man who was killed that night but was not part of the official death toll because his body was not found until several days later and was not found on campus. Blending actual history and entertaining fiction in this novel, Michael Henry gives us characters that are thoroughly realistic and human, dialogue that is sharp and witty, and a memorable plot that is tightly-woven and filled with surprises.
I’ve read the entire Willie Mitchell series as well as Mr. Henry’s stand-alone book, Finding Ishmael, and think this one may be his best yet. (For years, Three Bad Years was my favorite, but I think that’s changed, now). If you’ve never read his work, this novel can certainly stand alone, but it will leave you with a desire to go back and read all of the others. The character of Willie Mitchell is beautifully drawn; he and his best friend, the fat banker Jimmy Gray, banter back and forth like only long-time friends can and with such wit and humor that you feel like you know these people.
Mr. Henry’s books present a view of the south that is not stereotypical and does not pit blacks against whites as Hollywood would have you believe is always the case. His plots and his characters are drawn from his real life experience in the south both in and out of the courtroom and are a joy to read. I can’t fathom why he isn’t selling more books than Grisham or Connelly but I think it’s probably just that he’s our best kept secret. Once he is “discovered” he will quickly join the ranks of acclaimed southern writers.
Check it out: Murder in the Grove. Let me know what you think.
Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.