Behind Every Door

Written by Cynthia A. Graham
Review by G. J. Berger

The body of Gladys Kestrel, lifelong high school secretary in the town of Cherokee Crossing, Arkansas, lies snagged on a tree hanging over a levee. The body is fully clothed with no signs of a struggle except for massive head wounds. Two sharecropper Delaney boys, fishing from the levee, make the gruesome discovery and call it in.

Thirteen years before, the Delaney father had been convicted of and executed for the murder of a beautiful senior at the same high school. That victim was the daughter of the town’s Methodist minister. Now, in 1950, that minister and a local newspaper reporter rile the good town folks into a frenzy against the Delaney boys for this second murder.

Sheriff Hick Blackburn and his deputies must find the Kestrel killer or killers before their neighbors inflict country justice on the remaining dirt-poor Delaney family members. The investigation leads to connections between the two killings, leads that seem to go nowhere but uncover secrets “behind every door” in Cherokee Crossing. Even Hick’s close friends and his deceased father have had something to hide—or run away from.

From the opening scene, Graham gives readers both a page turner and true-to-the-time characters we care about. Interesting plot lines and surprises are sensibly resolved. The spare details about life back then are just right. Though on the short side, Behind Every Door is a satisfying story and transports us back to that time and place.