The Secret of Magic
Brave Joe Howard Wilson is returning home to Mississippi from WWII in 1946. On the way he has a fatal confrontation with soldiers transporting German prisoners of war. His demise fuels a search for answers by Regina Robichard, a young African-American lawyer who works in Harlem for the famous Thurgood Marshall. Regina’s father was killed in different circumstances but with a parallel motive. A grand jury was called after Joe Wilson’s death but immediately closed, and a questionable coroner’s report ultimately showed “nothing.”
Every step Regina takes is monitored and controlled by Mary Pickett, a constant reminder that racial prejudice and Jim Crow laws still prevail in 1940s Mississippi. Mary Pickett is also M. P. Calhoun, who wrote the novel The Secret of Magic years ago, a tale about the Mottley sisters, the mysterious disappearance of their African-American brother, and the search to find him by three young children. The victims of both accounts are strong, confident men unable to conform to the unspoken but virulently enforced rules of a powerful white world. Clues and threats in both cases arise against those who search for definitive answers.
The reader is never quite sure whether Ms. Pickett is helping or thwarting Regina’s search. A local African-American lawyer is able to slowly effect change but still serves at the pleasure of white politicians who monitor his every move. One admires and fears for the careful but determined Regina, who refuses to be intimated. Ultimately, there is hope for justice, albeit at a snail’s pace. This is a well-written, literary account of a historical time replete with notable characters who bravely confronted “the system” that denied freedom to so many for so long. Highly recommended!