Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Book Review: Murder on Second Street: The Jackson Ward Murders by Rebekah Pierce

Murder on Second Street: The Jackson Ward Murders
By Rebekah Pierce
Publisher: Rebekah Pierce
Published: July 22, 2013

Amazon Synopsis:

It's 1929 and Jackson Ward in Richmond, VA is known as "The Black Wall Street of America." The community is thriving as money and prosperity are plentiful, until the body of Annie Hilks is found floating in the James River in Richmond, VA. The police don't pay much attention to it; it's just another Negro woman who probably took her own life. But within two weeks, the bodies of three more Negro women are found in various locations throughout Jackson Ward, a prominent Negro community in the City. This is bad for business, and with no other choice left to them, the community reaches out to Sy Sanford to solve the murders.

Sy has three BIG problems: he's returned from the Great War with haunting nightmares, he blacks 
out periodically from drinking and he's in love with his beautiful, but physically abused married secretary, Lena Johnson. Reluctantly, Sy takes the case because, well, he needs the money. But can he find the killer in time to save Jackson Ward and himself?

Book Links 

My Thoughts:

This was a fascinating book right from the start. It had me up until very late into the night because I had to finish it before I could put it down. First of all this is a historical novel, and it was well researched. You don’t often find works cited at the back of a novel for reference.

Murder on Second Street: The Jackson Ward Murders follows Sy Sanderson, the owner of a security firm in the Jackson Ward district. He is hired by some the community’s business people to find the murderer of Negro women that have been turning up in the community over the past couple of weeks because the Sheriff is white, and “the murder of Negro women was not horrific enough for Sheriff Mason to do anything about it.”

This novel speaks volumes about the great racial divide that still existed in the late ‘20’s and early ‘30’s. Sy Sanderson was a veteran of World War I. The novel describes some of his memories of being integrated into white society in France and the shock of returning from war as a decorated officer to racism and segregation. The difference between the way Negroes veterans were treated in other parts of the world and how they were treated in America when they returned must have been particularly painful to them. Heroes in Europe; worthless dirt in the USA.

Along with racism, Murder on Second Street also deals with spousal abuse and how it was dealt with in that era. We also watched as Sy struggled with what we would now recognize and diagnose as post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, a condition that many veterans suffer from. And it, in turn, is probably what led him to his alcoholism.  As a writer, Ms. Pierce has the amazing ability to take a large number of themes and blend them together into a cohesive, comprehensive whole.

I really came to care for the two main characters Sy and Lena in this novel and really felt bad for them at the situations they were in – Lena for the abuse, both of them for being in love with one another and not being able to do anything about it. Sy’s situation nearly had me in tears toward the end of the novel. Lena was a sweet young woman and I felt bad for her that she got trapped in a loveless (at least on the part of her husband) marriage with a brutal, abusive man.

I really loved this book not only for the excellent writing, but also for the insight into what segregation was like during that time. This was not just a story, but a look into American history of the late 1920’s. Though the story itself is fiction, the culture of the place and time are real.

This book is a definite must-read. I gave it 5 stars out of 5.

Thank you very much to the author Rebekah Pierce for providing a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. A positive opinion was not required. All thoughts are my own.

About the Author:

I have been writing and teaching English literature for over thirteen years. I have always loved mystery novels which featured protagonists who had their own demons to fight as they saved the day, so to speak. Murder on Second Street: The Jackson Ward Murders is a blend of history and fiction. The plot is set during a very pivotal time in American history: 30 days before the infamous Black Tuesday, October 29, 1929. I will also be releasing a new historical fiction novel set in Richmond, Virginia in 1862 called The Secret Life of Lucy Bosman. Over the years, I've also written and directed several award winning full-length and short plays several of which have been performed on Off-Broadway. I've been a member of several local writers' groups for both fiction and drama where my work has been widely received and supported.

Life/Artist Mission Statement                                                              
The mission of Rebekah Lynn Pierce is to be a positive inspiration to her fellow man/womankind through the light and joy of her spirit which resonates through her literary works thereby allowing her to be able to walk through opened doors of opportunity.

Books by Rebekah:
Murder on Second Street: The Jackson Ward Murders
Sex, Lies & Shoeboxes
On the Cusp of Humanity: A Collection of Short Modern Plays -

Social Media:


  1. I am humbled at your kind words and thoughts. In fact, I am moved to tears. Thank you so much for seeing the work as it is: a love of history and humanity.


  2. You are sincerely welcome. Thank you for letting me share it with my readers.