In 1968, Tyrone Lewis was murdered by KKK members for daring to love Allie Camhurst, a white preacher’s daughter. Tyrone and Allie had secretly been dating for months, and when Allie discovered she was pregnant, the two planned to elope when four men in white robes and hoods stabbed Tyrone and raped Allie. Fearing for her life, Allie escaped her hometown of Witherston, Georgia, and began a new life with a new identity.
Fifty years later, Witherston is again the scene of what appears to be a racially-motivated murder, but this time Crockett Wood, a member of a white supremacist group known as the Saxxons, has been shot to death. The killing comes hard on the heels of a controversial decision by the Witherston town council which recently voted to make Witherston a sanctuary city, taking in and aiding illegal aliens by refusing to cooperate with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and drawing criticism both within and without. This small town becomes split along racial lines, and tensions boil over as the past and the present collide when Dr. Charlotte “Lottie” Byrd, a retired college professor, opens her own investigation into Tyrone’s case and finds its twisted connection to Wood’s recent murder.
The fictional town of Witherston, Georgia, is an American patchwork quilt of diversity, and racism plays a prominent role. From a native Cherokee village to same-sex couples who call the small town home, Witherston is a celebration of heterogeneity, a microcosm for modern America. Though the majority of citizens feel their community is advanced and forward-thinking, it becomes clear that prejudice is not dead when the Saxxons threaten the town – mirroring events occurring in America in recent times. As the threats become more vicious, the Witherstonians must decide whether to let the hate of some overwhelm the lives of all. A clear message emerges in the attitude of characters like Lottie, Beau Lodge, and the Arroyo twins. Despite the hate-spewing white supremacists, the townspeople band together and choose happiness and unity over fear and factions.
Lottie’s nephews, Jaime, and Jorge Arroyo, and their friend Beau Lodge are the true champions of the novel both literally and figuratively. As biracial millennials, these seventeen-year-olds represent all that is good in ignoring racial distinctions and, instead, celebrating those differences. The boys are smart and clever and most importantly, courageous in the face of prejudice. It is through that bravery that the culminating events occur.
Saxxons in Witherston is sure to find its audience among those who enjoy history, as the author has done her research, and fans of the Witherston Murder Mystery series.