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Penumbra

Cover of Penumbra

Penumbra

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Jade Dupree is a beautician and an undertaker's assistant with a gift for smoothing the ravages of death from the faces of her clientele. But her strange talent isn't the only thing that sets her apart from the townspeople of tiny Drexel, Mississippi. Jade is half-black and the unacknowledged bastard daughter of Drexel's "first lady," the imperious Lucille Longier. Jade's half sister, the pale, fragile, and legitimate Marlena, is married to Lucas Bramlett, the wealthiest man in the region. While the entire town knows of the blood bond between the two women, no one dares speak the truth out loud. Though her talents as a hairdresser are highly sought after by Drexel's elite, Jade accepts that she'll never truly be part of the town and lives her life the best she can. But on one hot summer day in 1952, Jade's world is turned inside out when Marlena, on a tryst with her lover, is savagely beaten and her young daughter kidnapped. Determined to find her niece before it's too late, Jade accepts help from a white sheriff's deputy, Frank Kimble. The forbidden attraction that ignites between them threatens to add to the violence already brewing in town.

Jade Dupree is a beautician and an undertaker's assistant with a gift for smoothing the ravages of death from the faces of her clientele. But her strange talent isn't the only thing that sets her apart from the townspeople of tiny Drexel, Mississippi. Jade is half-black and the unacknowledged bastard daughter of Drexel's "first lady," the imperious Lucille Longier. Jade's half sister, the pale, fragile, and legitimate Marlena, is married to Lucas Bramlett, the wealthiest man in the region. While the entire town knows of the blood bond between the two women, no one dares speak the truth out loud. Though her talents as a hairdresser are highly sought after by Drexel's elite, Jade accepts that she'll never truly be part of the town and lives her life the best she can. But on one hot summer day in 1952, Jade's world is turned inside out when Marlena, on a tryst with her lover, is savagely beaten and her young daughter kidnapped. Determined to find her niece before it's too late, Jade accepts help from a white sheriff's deputy, Frank Kimble. The forbidden attraction that ignites between them threatens to add to the violence already brewing in town.

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  • Publisher's Weekly

    February 27, 2006
    Far from Haines's fluffy Southern cozies in tone, if not geography, this thriller from the author of Crossed Bones
    aims at a noirish literary quality it only partly achieves. On the plus side are powerful scenes of suspense and a moody evocation of time and place. Eschewing anything so obvious as naming an actual date, Haines makes it clear through subtle clues that the action is happening just after the end of WWII. The entrenched racial structure of a small Mississippi town of that era is similarly well done. Chief among the novel's shortcomings is the heavy-handed rendering of the love story between a mixed-race beauty, Jade Dupree, and all-white deputy Frank Kimble. Other interracial relationships are integral to the story, but the tantalizing possibility of a strong unifying theme is lost in banality and cliché. After society queen Marlena Bramlett, Jade's white half-sister, is brutally raped and Marlena's young daughter kidnapped, the plot thickens like cold grits. Haines loses control as her story builds to a discordant conclusion, which could be setting up a sequel but otherwise fails to satisfy.

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Penumbra
Penumbra
Carolyn Haines
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