"Decent People"| Reviewed by Chris Stuckenschneider
It’s March 1976, and the small community of West Mills, North Carolina is in turmoil. Three well known Blacks from the same family have been shot to death in their home, two women and a man, all siblings. The remaining half-sibling, Olympus “Lymp” Seymore, is suspect. He was heard speaking badly about them at the town’s local gas station, so people say.
“Decent People” is an immersive mystery by De’Shawn Charles Winslow, whose previous novel “West Mills” featured the same setting. It was Winslow’s debut, one that received glowing reviews and accolades.
In Winslow’s new book, Josephine Wright, age 60, returns to West Mills where she was born and raised, after spending 48 years as a secretary in New York City. Jo has failed at love in the past but finally believes she’s found the right man in Lymp, her childhood sweetheart. The couple plans to marry.
Jo receives quite a jolt when she gets to West Mills and Lymp’s son Nate comes by. She’d been expecting Lymp to welcome her home, but Nate explains his father is in shock over news about his family. Though he wasn’t close to them, Lymp certainly didn’t want them to die. Lymp was interrogated by the police and is off the hook—but not with the townspeople, who are all abuzz.
Jo knows her man can’t possibly have had anything to do with the homicide. A “busy-body” at heart, Josephine takes it upon herself to put together the puzzle pieces, find out who committed the heinous triple murder and dispel any doubt about Lymp being the perpetrator.
The strength of “Decent People” lies the amazing way Winslow weaves together backstories of the town’s fallible, complicated characters, painstakingly detailing their lives and the tangled web that connects one to the other. The murdered siblings Marian, Marva and Laz Harmon are all involved in Friendly Pediatrics, where Marian is a respected doctor, but is she? Why does she dispense meds and set appointments for adults when she’s supposed to be a pediatrician? Hearsay circulates about the possibility of the Harmons being involved with drugs.
Racial tension, bigotry, adultery, greed, and prejudice come to light as the pages turn in this addictive stand-alone novel. “Decent People” hangs out the dirty wash of individuals who appear to be upstanding citizens, bringing their transgressions to light in a book sure to garner more fans for an author who’s quite a storyteller.