Saturday, January 14, 2006

G. Miki Hayden's "A Murder on 123rd Street"

Just read my first G. Miki Hayden story in the current Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. A Murder on 123rd Street is great for its fully developed central character and the insight into a culture that was always opaque to me even though I grew up in NYC and certainly had many Africans in my classes (both as a student and as an instructor). Notice it is Africans not African-Americans. Miriam, the amateur sleuth who gets to the bottom of things here, is originally from Ghana as is her husband and the younger, second wife, her husband has recently imported. Hayden, who I have met and is probably not from Ghana, presents the world of Harlem from Miriam's eyes. There is no lapse in this worldview. I know nothing about how people from Ghana really view Harlem, but I completely beieve I've been given a glimpse of that in this story.

But then, the mystery - Miriam's super (that is, the superintendat of her apartment building) has been murdered, there was only one eyewitness, and this person not only said nothing to the police, this person wasn't even asked. Miriam does her detecting though she has a household to tend to and the second wife has become pregnant -- strange in itself since the husband hasn't had conjugal relations with her.

Anyway, a worthy read. I really do hope to see more of Miriam. It was a lot like Alexander McCall Smith's main character (whose name I'm blanking on) but this story had a lot more pep to it. In fact, I tell a lie. Miriam was a lot more interesting than Mma. Whatever her name is.


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