Hang My Head And Cry

Written by Elena Santangelo
Review by Ilysa Magnus

Pat Montella, a refugee from Philadelphia blessed with Sight, now lives in rural Virginia with Miss Maggie Shelby. In Miss Maggie’s back yard, skeletal remains are discovered. Who do the bones belong to? Enter a cast of unforgettable, complex characters. The mystery is deepened by Pat’s startling visions of Reconstruction-era Virginia and by the story of a young boy, Emancipation “Mance” Jackson, whose tale is interspersed, chapter by chapter, with what is happening at the “dig.”

Santangelo has a way of recalling 1871 rural Virginia with an immediacy that makes the reader feel very much as if the Civil War never ended. You can almost feel the heat and humidity of both Virginias, past and present, seep off the pages. The ugliness of racial hatred, presented from Mance’s perspective, makes us feel part of that time, whether we like it or not. Pat is an unusual mystery heroine – part detective, part homemaker (the pages are literally peppered with low-fat alternatives to fattening Italian dishes) and part mystic. I never quite knew what was going to happen, and these are the most fun mysteries, after all. I enjoyed this one and intend to read the first Montella book, By Blood Possessed.