I felt Carter wasted her talent in the semi-pornographic novel Walking Bones. She redeems her self in Jackson Park, in which she returns to the detective novel. This time the amateur detective is not the New York street musician Nanette Hayes. She is a smart mouth, wonderfully irritating, intelligent twenty-year-old freshman college student in Chicago named Cassandra. She never knew her mother or father, and, when her grandmother with whom she was living died, went to live with her grandaunt and her husband in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago.
Cassandra, Ivy, and Woody become amateur detectives when Clay Jackson from their old neighborhood asks Woody to find his missing granddaughter Lavelle Jackson. Lavelle disappeared during the riots following Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination. She was last seen rushing out of the corner grocery store where she had gone to buy groceries for Clay. The owner found a high school ring among the groceries she dropped and, after some persuasion, gives it up to Woody. After reading the inscription on the inside of the ring, Woody decides to drop the case.
Cassandra, however, feels Mr. Clay deserves to know what happened to Lavelle and insists that Woody find her, or she will continue without his help. This naïve child doesn’t understand that Woody is reluctant to continue the search because it might lead to the family’s involvement in the investigation of the 20 year old murder of a white school teacher and conflict with members of the Chicago police department. She will also discover the involvement of some of her classmates in a black militant organization called “Root.”
Cassandra is an irritating, rebellious, intelligent 20 year old who, like most young people her age, thinks she knows everything, and yet, she is wonderfully fascinating. She describes herself: “I was ugly misshapen, red haired, and walked with a light limp.” She also considers herself 20 pounds overweight. She is the engine that keeps the rapidly moving plot rushing to an unexpected ending, especially for her.
Oh yes, Charlotte Carter, the real detective novelist, is back with a sort of coming-of-age detective novel.