Speaking of book reviews, I am excited to be on the TLC Book Tour for Between the Lies by Cynthia A. Graham, the third book in the Hick Blackburn series, a historical mystery series set in Arkansas in 1954. Accompanying my review is some tasty Fried Okra with Spicy Sriracha-Caper Sauce, inspired by my reading.
When the corrupt sheriff of Broken Creek, Arkansas detains a young black boy on charges of accidental homicide, his sister asks Hick Blackburn, Sheriff of Cherokee Crossing, to investigate. Hick is reluctant at first. Not only is Broken Creek out of his jurisdiction, but Hick and Sheriff Brewster have a history, and Hick knows Brewster won’t look kindly on his interference. But Hick quickly realizes the boy couldn’t have committed the crime. With the aid of a New York attorney trying to make a name for herself and a shy new deputy who knows the boy’s family, Hick uncovers a conspiracy that goes to the heart of local corruption, nepotism, and racism. But while Hick is working to free an innocent child in Broken Creek, his beloved Maggie, pregnant with their third child, faces challenges of her own back home. This time, will Hick’s dedication to justice extract too high a price?
Paperback: 220 pages
Publisher: Blank Slate Press (March 27, 2018)
I am always amazed at the amount of story that Cynthia Graham fits into these short (220-ish pages) books, that satisfies but leaves me wanting more. Hick Blackburn is such a great character, a good, but not perfect man--sheriff, husband, father, friend, and WWII veteran, still troubled by the damages of war. Hick tries his best to do the right thing--even when it means sticking his nose into the policing going on in the next rural town when a corrupt sheriff (who Hick has dealt with before) is railroading a young black boy into a guilty plea for a murder he did not commit. I like Hick so much that I do want to knock the cigarettes he is constantly smoking out of his hands. ;-) The mystery in this third installment is as good as the first two books--there are twists and turns in the story and some tough issues--like racism, sexism, greed, and corruption that hit awfully close to today's headlines and had me shaking my head at how far we have not come. I did not love the ending and I won't say why for fear of spoilers--although there was enough foreshadowing that I had an idea what was coming and I so wanted to be wrong. I am interested to see what transpires in the next book and how it impacts the story and especially Hick's character. If you love good mysteries with well-drawn characters, southern-set books, and historical fiction and mysteries, do give this series a try and start with the first book, Beneath Still Waters (my review is here), you won't be disappointed.
Author Notes: Cynthia A. Graham was born in St. Louis, Missouri. As a child she spent every weekend and vacation in the cotton belt of Missouri where she grew to love the mystery and beauty of the stark, Delta Plain. Cynthia graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Missouri – St. Louis with a B.A. in English. She has won several awards for her short stories and has been published in a number of anthologies. Between the Lies follows the first two books in her historical mystery series featuring Sheriff Hick Blackburn, Beneath Still Water and Behind Every Door, which both won IPPY and MIPA awards.
Connect with Cynthia via her website or on Twitter.
These are short books that revolve around the solving of a crime so there isn't what I would call a lot of food in them. Still, I was able to find some food and beverage mentions including a chicken leg, oatmeal, pork and beans, barbecued pork, diner coffee, moonshine, fried eggs and bacon, watermelon, potatoes, iced tea, fried chicken, fried okra, a tomato juice-based hangover cure, pork chops, cheese sandwiches, scrambled eggs and Cornflakes.
Since I don't eat meat or poultry, most of the food mentioned isn't something I wanted to make but the fried okra, served at a Sunday family dinner at Hick's was something I could get behind. I have made fried okra before (check out this vegan version here) but I didn't have any wheat flour and cornmeal in my pantry. I was going to buy some when I saw McCormick's Cajun Seafood Fry Mix that I have used before and it was cheaper and faster than restocking my pantry with items I don't use a lot. I added some Old Bay Seasoning and cayenne to the mix and dredged the okra pieces in beaten egg before frying them in canola oil until light brown and crispy. I did make the dipping sauce myself. It's not southern or traditional, but it is delicious.
Spicy Sriracha-Caper Sauce
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup mayonaise, yogurt or a combination of the two
1 1/2 Tbsp Sriracha, or to taste
1 Tbsp capers, drained + 2 tsp caper brine
1 tsp garlic powder (I use roasted garlic powder)
1/2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. Use as a dip for okra.
Notes/Results: I confess that I find okra's sliminess to be a bit off-putting but I do like it fried or pickled as both preparations temper the sliminess. This okra had a great blend of flavor and just enough heat with the cayenne and Old Bay I added to the fry mix. The dipping sauce adds both flavor and an extra kick that makes popping these little fried morsels a pleasure. I will happily make both the sauce and the okra again.
I'm sharing this post with the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.
Note: A review copy of "Between the Lies" was provided to me by the author and the publisher via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.
You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.