Most of us know Emmy Award-winning Tamron Hall as a talk-show host and former host of NBC’s Today Show—the first Black woman to co-anchor the show. She grew up poor in a small Texas town, then became a journalist in Bryan, Texas, before moving to Dallas and later establishing her career in Chicago.
What you might not know about Hall is that she’s experienced violence on a personal level—she lost her stepsister, Renate, to violence, and started The Tamron ♥ Renate Fund, with Safe Horizon, to provide services for victims of abuse and violent crime.
Now Hall is spreading her message through fiction. Because of her experience as a journalist and advocate for domestic violence awareness, As the Wicked Watch (William Morrow, release date October 26), is a well-informed look at abuse and assault, especially against the Black community.
Tamron’s protagonist, Jordan Manning, is a crime reporter who’s also a forensic scientist, called to cover murders of Black women, vowing to give them the news coverage their murders deserve. (Her character grew up in Texas but landed in Chicago, just as Tamron did).
Jordan not only reports on the murders, but her science background allows her to investigate the crimes with clues she’s trained to uncover.
The novel begins with Jordan at a local park in the historic Bronzeville neighborhood on Chicago’s south side. Construction workers had found the body of a missing African American girl—Masey James—who was an honor-roll student. She’d been missing for three weeks and the police had insisted she was probably a runaway, so their investigation had been far from diligent.
Now, another African American girl’s body has been found behind a dumpster, and there’s a connection to Masey’s murder.
There was a “growing wave of discontent over the number of unsolved murders of Black women on the South and West Sides. Now, with the murder of Tania Mosley, that number stands at eight over the last two years.”
Jordan knows that “Black residents feel that homicides and missing persons investigation aren’t taken as seriously when the victim is Black.”
A witness claims they saw Masey get into a car with a Black man in a black van wearing dark clothes. Jordan had heard the same description many times before, and she was sick of it. Sick of black being “The color of fear. The descriptor of evil.”
She also knows that, “How a person sees three Black men looks different depending on who you are and how and where you grew up. How people see them through the lens of race impacts how their teachers see them, how police interact with them.”
As Jordan continues her news coverage, her investigation takes her to a Black community activist and a white woman advocating for victims’ rights. What she discovers shocks everyone.
“Self-preservation was the infinite barbed-wire fence between the truth and lies. That was why I trusted and followed the science.”
“I know from the many stories that I’ve covered that the wicked watch, and they strike when they think nobody’s looking.”
The Art of Storytelling:
With Jordan’s character, readers experience our current climate of racial stereotyping and systemic racism through the lens of a person of color.
Hall depicts the frustration experienced by the Black community when law enforcement doesn’t perform investigations into crimes against Black citizens as diligently as crimes against their white neighbors. She also delves into the subconscious bias of how many in our society “see” Black individuals, including unfair treatment by law enforcement.
Hall uses her journalistic flair to infuse realism into the novel while using fiction to advocate against domestic violence and injustice in today’s society, especially in minority communities. Jordan experiencing the murder of her cousins years before mirrors the loss of Hall’s stepsister to violence.
A timely thriller entwined in a modern police procedural, written from the perspective of a character who’s suffered a similar circumstance as the victims.
What I Liked Best:
The story lets readers experience the world through the eyes of a woman of color who knows what it’s like to constantly prove she’s worthy. It also vividly depicts the struggles and trauma of marginalized communities.
A timely, fast-paced #OwnVoices thriller that readers will find thought-provoking as well as entertaining.
You can also read this review at BookTrib.com.
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