Three-Fifths by John Vercher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In Pittsburgh during the winter of 1995 Bobby is a young biracial man passing for white who has never told anyone that his father was black. So when Bobby’s old buddy Aaron gets out of prison and shows up looking like a ‘roid monster with neo-Nazi tattoos, it’s not a great situation. It gets even worse when Aaron viciously beats a young black man, and Bobby unwittingly acts as his getaway driver. Terrified both of being arrested and of Aaron finding out his true heritage, Bobby also has to deal with his alcoholic mother who has a starling encounter of her own with a doctor who is struggling through a divorce.
When I attended the 2019 Bouchercon everyone was raving about this book, and I saw John Vercher a couple of times. After reading this now I’m kicking myself for not taking the opportunity to meet him.
I’m not sure if this is social commentary as crime fiction or crime fiction as social commentary, but whatever you call it, it’s a great book. In an incredibly tight 200 pages Vercher not only creates several vivid characters, but he also manages to make all of their backstory part of a personal mystery that revolves around exactly why Bobby is so committed to hiding the fact that he’s biracial.
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