Jackal by Erin E. Adams [in Booklist]
On the opening page, debut author Erin E. Adams affectingly invokes Alice Walker – the Black writer of a banned book exposing racist hate – although here, this Alice is just a girl playing in the woods of 1985 Johnstown, Pennsylvania … until she is reduced to a heart-less corpse in the police morgue.
William DeMeritt immediately unnerves, his character’s identity is only revealed some 10 hours later. Until then, whenever his voice intermittently interrupts, stifling fear hovers. Relative audiobook newbie Sandra Okuboyejo expertly commands the bulk of the narration as protagonist Liz Rocher, who reluctantly comes home to Johnstown for her white best friend Melissa’s June, 2017 wedding.
Liz might be an independent Black woman with a successful NYC career, but on returning to this predominantly white community she is quickly pulled back into its simmering nightmare. Then Caroline, Melissa’s mixed-raced child who is also Liz’s goddaughter, goes missing at the reception. Liz is determined to save Caroline: she knows about these woods, the disappearances. What she’ll find are dirty cops, multi-generational racist erasure, and decades of butchered Black girls.
Chameleonic Okuboyejo never disappoints, especially possessed by desperate, searching, mourning mothers; she elevates Adams’ savvy thriller with eerie aural excellence.