Saturday, April 6, 2024

A Calamity of Souls

A Calamity of Souls by David Baldacci
4/16/24; 496 pages
Grand Central

A Calamity of Souls by David Baldacci is a courtroom drama/mystery set in southern Virginia in 1968 during the desegregation of the South. It is an exceptional, very highly recommended novel.

Jack Lee is a white lawyer from Freeman County, Virginia, who agrees to defend Black Vietnam veteran Jerome Washington who has been charged with murdering his employers, Leslie and Anne Randolph. Even though it is clear considering obvious evidence that Jerome is innocent, it soon becomes apparent that local prejudices and outside forces are all working against Jack and Jerome to ensure a guilty verdict and they won't hesitate to use physical violence. Then Desiree DuBose, a Black lawyer from Chicago sent by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, arrives in Freeman County. She has devoted her life to furthering the causes of justice and equality for everyone and enters into a partnership with Jack to defend Jerome. The two work together to fight against a system that doesn't want to accept change of their prejudicial beliefs.

In the author's notes at the opening of the novel Baldacci explains that this novel has been in the works for over a decade and contains autobiographical elements in the story. This was a tumultuous time in history when George Wallace was running for president and vehemently opposed desegregation and Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy had been murdered. The historical context is an important element to the whole narrative.

The characters are all wonderfully, fully realized and come to life in A Calamity of Souls. The well-developed characters help set this one apart. The actual narrative is a subject that has been told before in several other excellent novels and this is a welcomed edition to that group. Baldacci's experience as a lawyer help make the preparations for the defense and the trial come to life. There are plenty of twists and evidence revealed to surprise you and make this an exceptional novel that should resonate with most readers.

Once you start reading you will not be able to put A Calamity of Souls aside. It will hold your complete attention and the pages will just fly by. In fact, I was so engrossed in the narrative that after I finished it I was surprised to see the length of the novel. Thanks to Grand Central for providing me with an advance reader's copy via NetGalley. My review is voluntary and expresses my honest opinion.

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