Book Review: The Clouds Roll Away
Written by Sibella Giorello
Reviewed by Nike Chillemi –
How do you come back from being stuck in the boonies on a disciplinary assignment with a modicum of self-respect? When she comes home, FBI Special Agent Raleigh Harmon has to run that gauntlet and face Victoria Phaup, her supervisor who hates her.
She’s back in her beloved Richmond, Virginia, assigned to a case and trying to keep her nose clean. Unfortunately that’s not going as well as she’d hoped. Phaup opens another investigation of her professional actions, which could send her back out to a tiny field office in nowhereland.
Raleigh is assigned to investigate a hate crime when someone burns a cross on the lawn in front of “Rapland,” an African American music mogul’s mansion. Is a snooty, blue-blooded champion of preserving the history of the old south responsible? When the initials KKK pop up, it seems this bigoted organization is rising from a poor neighborhoods where ignorant white supremists concoct their nefarious plots.
The case is given to Raleigh because it seemed like a no-brainer. Which Phaup feels is exactly what fits Raleigh’s capabilities. Raleigh finds evidence that all is not as it seems. Her supervisor is not interested in Raleigh’s assessment of the case and gives no credence whatsoever to Raleigh’s gut instincts. She saddles Raleigh’s with another low profile case involving gangbangers. When the two cases begin to intersect, Phaup thinks Raleigh may be forcing the issue. Needless to say, she’s is not a happy camper and now hopes to get Raleigh discharged from the FBI.
Raleigh is also traversing a difficult relationship with her “absolutely perfect sister” and her mother Nadine who has some psychological issues rooted in deep grief over the unsolved murder of her husband, Raleigh’s father. The beauty of the author’s prose takes the reader and Nadine through a very trying Christmas. By coming home, Raleigh had hoped to give Nadine a needed emotional lift, but she seems to increase her mother’s fragility. To add more confusion to the house, Wally, a struggling young photographer moves in as a tenant.
There’s a hint of romance. With Raleigh’s ex-boyfriend DeMott seemingly shadowing her, trying to get her to give him another chance, you have some complex plot twists. The novel is written in first person, which gets us deep into Raleigh’s head. I thoroughly believed the scene where her mind wanders to solving the case during a Christmas sermon in her church.
This is my kind of Christmas story, but the reader must be aware it’s pretty gritty and in parts reads like a CSI episode. There’s blood and guts all over the place in a few scenes. The author spins an incredible tale and ties together disparate storylines into an ending that comes as a complete surprise.