Julie Smith (Knitting and Sundries)'s Reviews > Murder on the Down Low

Murder on the Down Low by Pamela Samuels Young
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Dec 13, 10

bookshelves: reviewed
Read on December 12, 2010

This review first appeared on my blog: http://jewelknits.blogspot.com/2010/1...

In Los Angeles, a successful African-American OB/GYN, Dr. Quentin Banks, arrives back at the office from a midday rendezvous and is shot and killed in broad daylight while exiting his car in the parking garage.

In a different part of town, four friends come together to mourn the death of their 32-year-old friend Maya. One of them, Maya's cousin Special, arrives late and proceeds to the dais to make the announcement that Maya did NOT die of pneumonia, but of AIDS, having been infected by her fiancee Eugene Nelson, an attorney she met at a Christian singles retreat. Another bombshell: Eugene is on "the down low", meaning that he also sleeps with men on the side.

Vernetta, an attorney at a high-powered firm, Nichelle, also an attorney and partner at a smaller firm, and J. C., a homicide detective, round out this circle of friends. They have a plan to make Eugene pay, and with permission from Maya's mother, file a lawsuit against Eugene for wrongful death.

Special, in her grief, also has plans to make Eugene pay. As she exacts her own form of revenge against Eugene, other successful African-American men are killed in the same fashion (and for the same reasons, as J. C. finds out) as Dr. Banks.

As J.C. tried to get her boss to warn the community of the danger, Vernetta is dealing with a backstabber at the office who is apparently the reason her mentor no longer favors her for partnership. Nichelle becomes an unofficial spokesperson, warning women of the dangers of unknowingly contracting AIDS from their partner, and Eugene leaves his job and turns to the church for healing.

This is a great legal thriller with it's own share of twists and turns. I tend to shy away from a lot of African-American fiction, even by black authors, because so often, they are filled with such stereotypical, misrepresented characters. NOT the case here. I found myself so angry at Eugene and at any man who would not represent himself fairly to his partner or wife, especially when that misrepresentation puts his partner at risk. But I also felt a lot of sympathy for him as he grappled with the repercussions of his actions and saw his life fall apart around him.

Vernetta is bolstered by her wonderfully supportive husband, Jefferson, who sees how unhappy she is at her firm and urges her to step back, take some time off, or even quit.

You feel so much for all of the characters that the mystery of who is committing the murders almost becomes secondary, until suspicion centers on one of THEM. I read through this in a day, it was that good.

The book also draws attention, in a low-key but effective way, to the spread of HIV and AIDS in the minority community. There ARE brothers out there on the "down low", but there are also Caucasian men that are doing the same. Most HIV is spread through heterosexual contact, in spite of the persisting myth that this is a "gay disease", and it is up to us as women to protect our bodies.

QUOTES

A female homicide detective in L. A. was rare enough. A black, female dick was about as common as a unicorn strolling down Crenshaw Boulevard.

"I already love you. I offer you a Snickers every time I see you, don't I? You think I do that with everybody? That's the ultimate gesture of love in my book."

"Excuse me. If somebody is shooting black"- he slowly enunciated every syllable - "ho-mo-sex-u-als, then as far as I'm concerned, they're doing society one great big favor."
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Reading Progress

12/12/2010 page 29
8.0%

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