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The Gone Dead

3.44  ·  Rating details ·  3,020 ratings  ·  395 reviews
An electrifying first novel from “a riveting new voice in American fiction” (George Saunders): A young woman returns to her childhood home in the American South and uncovers secrets about her father’s life and death

Billie James’s inheritance isn’t much: a little money and a shack in the Mississippi Delta. The house once belonged to her father, a renowned black poet who die
Hardcover, 295 pages
Published June 25th 2019 by Ecco
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Karen Some swearing, not very much in my opinion. Some sex, but not graphic. Violence: again not graphic, but there are a couple of violent acts, and a murd…moreSome swearing, not very much in my opinion. Some sex, but not graphic. Violence: again not graphic, but there are a couple of violent acts, and a murder.(less)

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Jun 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
The Gone Dead by Chanelle Benz is a 2019 Ecco publication.

Race related crimes from the past continue to painfully haunt those living in the present in this tense and timely southern mystery.

This is a short novel, but it still packs a punch. The story is centered around Billie James, a young woman who inherited some money and a run down, barely habitable home in Mississippi. Upon arrival, Billie hopes she can learn more about her father, who had been a renowned black poet. But her inquiries are
Diane S ☔
Jul 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lor-2019
A debut novel of history and family in the Mississippi delta. Billie, her father found dead in what was called an accident when she was four, returns to the Delta in what she hopes is a short visit. Her mother recently gone as well, she wants to see, what is basically little more than a shack and to visit her uncle, her father's much young brother. She finds more than she expected and finds herself the target of those who do not want the truth of her father's death to be revealed.

I'm not a big f
C'mon now.....

The Gone Dead takes you by the hand and slow walks you through the uneven roads of the Mississippi Delta. At first, you feel a distant beckoning and the weight of the humid air bogging down on you as you near the swampy creeks. And then comes the rapid motion of that yank on your torso as you find yourself diving right in.

Billie James has not been back for over thirty years. She had left her past life in Mississippi and went on to live with her mother since she was four. Like nomad
Jul 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
In 2002 when Billie inherits the house in which her father Clifton died 30 years before, she returns to Mississippi and discovers that his death had not been as straight forward as it appeared. Clifton had been a well known black poet and was divorced from his white wife Pia. Billie was 4 when her father died. I enjoyed the dialogue and the characters, particularly Billie, her uncle Dee and her father’s girlfriend Carlotta. I also admired Billie’s dogged determination to get to the truth. It fel ...more
Jessica Woodbury
The Southern mystery with a strong sense of place is not a new genre, but it is a mostly white one. It's wonderful to see Chanelle Benz join the field with THE GONE DEAD, which feels like it belongs with other Mississippi-set modern work from writers like Jesmyn Ward and Kiese Laymon. Most would probably classify this as a "literary" crime novel, it has a slow pace and no big payoff, but once you get past the first few chapters it's quite addictive.

Billie James had an unusual childhood, taken fr
3.5 stars.

I thought this started out strong with an intriguing hook. When Billie travels to her birthplace in rural Mississippi, where she's inherited her grandmother's house, she learns that the night her father died, she herself was reported missing, a time that she has no recollection of at all. Can you imagine learning such a thing and how you'd react?

The more questions she asks, the more she needs to find out. People are getting upset with her, blacks and whites both, and she might actuall
Jul 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
I spent one long, hot summer in the Mississippi Delta back in the mid-Eighties. My Boston accent and northern roots made it impossible for me to blend in, and the fact that it was less than twenty years after the assassination of Martin Luther King was completely lost on me at the time. I was young and idealistic, and I couldn’t see or understand the ugliness where I lived or where I visited to that point in my life. While I met many lovely people and became enamored with their Southern hospital ...more
Jul 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Read the whole thing in a day because I couldn't put it down. This is a literary mystery set in Mississippi about a woman who returns to her father's hometown to find out the truth about his death. Officially it was ruled an accident, but the reaction of locals (including her own family members) as she investigates makes it clear there's more to the story. I was totally sucked in--so atmospheric, I could practically feel the sticky heat of the South as I read.
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
Just ok. I felt there were too many extraneous characters and the plot was not very original. 2.5⭐️
Clif Hostetler
The Mississippi Delta was the center of many of the most notable events of America’s Civil Rights struggle of the mid-20th century. Thus when I learned that this novel was set in the Mississippi Delta region I was on the lookout for ways that the author brought this history to life.

Indeed, the book's protagonist is a living metaphor of American racial angst arising from that history—the child of a mixed race marriage, raised in the north by her white mother, now at age 34 she is the inheritor o
Kyra Leseberg (Roots & Reads)
May 20, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: arc
Billie James returns to the Mississippi Delta after a thirty year absence.  After her mother's recent death, she's inherited her father's old home that has set vacant for so long it's little more than a shack.  All that Billie knows is that when she was four years old her father Cliff was found dead in his front yard.  The police claim Cliff was intoxicated and died from a fall.  In 1970's Mississippi, that was as far as the investigation into a black man's death would go.

Billie has taken a shor
May 03, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf
---- Disclosure: I received this book for free from Goodreads. ----

Dnf in the middle of p. 28, after trying 3 different times to get through this book. It's bloody awful. Literally from the 1st words I was rearranging these so-called sentences & paragraphs so they might make some type of sense. There's also random extraneous info. thrown in all over the place, & a complete lack of style. To further muddy the waters, the pronoun usage is sloppy & undelineated to the point of having no clear ref

Ann Marie (Lit·Wit·Wine·Dine)
Full review to follow.
...And my mother, my momma said there ain't no justice in the world, baby. We have to wait till the next."

this is a southern narrative that rattled me a bit. (view spoiler) it is hard to believe this is a first nove
Jul 17, 2019 rated it it was ok
This book was a disappointment. I was expecting a mystery with some focus on serious issues, but there is no real mystery, just people not wanting to discuss the past and confront racial injustice.

After an absence of three decades, Billie James returns to the Mississippi Delta. She has inherited the house where her father Clifton, a well-known black poet, died in 1972, 30 years earlier. During her time in Glendale, she finds out that some people suspect Clifton’s death may not have been the resu
3.5 stars

As soon as Billie mentions she inherited a house in the south from her grandmother, I was so worried this was going to be another The Fixer Upper or Queen Sugar. The good news: It's not! It's not about a dimwitted pretty girl from the north who got a house in the south and has men crawling all around her in the most gentlemanly of fashions.
In fact, she mows the yard at one point and gets a blister that hangs around for days and I was filled with joy.

This is more of a mystery story. Bill
Paris (parisperusing)
If Jesmyn Ward and Gillian Flynn came together on a novel, it would surely look like this.

In Chanelle Benz's debut novel, The Gone Dead, one biracial woman's return to the Mississippi Delta threatens to unearth secrets of her father’s life and death which have long since been buried by a community wounded by racism. As the novel progresses, Benz proves just how little we've come in the way of siding with solidarity over inequality, and no one learns this lesson more than our poor protagonist, Bi
Nick Gardner
Feb 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Chanelle Benz is a literary acrobat. Her writing style can be blunt or flowery. The prose flowed beautifully and this book was perfectly paced, quick to read, easy to understand, while still playing with words and colloquialism.
Knowing Benz from her short fiction, I had no idea for about half the book which way things were going to go. But then it got predictable. The final half of the book, the reader knows what happened, can easily guess what is going to happen, but I believe this is the poin
Aug 24, 2019 rated it liked it
One of those books that has an incredibly interesting premise and characters but gets stuck spinning the wheels. The wrap up at the end felt abrupt.
Taylor Givens
Nov 26, 2019 rated it liked it
One of the prompts for my local public library's reading challenge this year is a book related to your ancestry. I was struggling to find something and a cool librarian recommended this to me. I follow new releases pretty closely so I was surprised to have never heard of this book or author, especially since the synopsis sounded like it would be right up my alley. It was.

I missed the buzz on this (if there was any?) and went into this book completely unaware. I was shocked at what I found
Feb 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
I DNF'd a mystery before I picked up this book which the F2F mystery group that I attend will be discussing in March. So I wasn't in an especially tolerant mood, but was nevertheless soon immersed in the story of Billie James, the female protagonist of The Gone Dead. This isn't a fast paced mystery, but the Mississippi milieu, the provocative themes and the character relationships kept me reading.

Billie won't give up until she learns what really happened to her father in 1972. She gradually lear
Chaya Nebel
May 05, 2019 rated it it was ok
This novel is a mix of a mystery/crime novel, with the protagonist trying to solve the mystery of what happened to her father 30 years ago, and an exploration of race in the deep south, with its abiding racism 30 years ago, with lingering effects into the present. It's a little slow moving, as Billie comes to terms with various issues. First there are family members she hasn't seen in ages, like uncles, cousins and so on. There are white people who knew her and her family so many years ago, who ...more
Oct 04, 2019 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
4.5 stars

My review and an extended sample of the audiobook are posted at

Chanelle Benz is a new-to-me author, but when I saw that Bahni Turpin was the narrator, I decided to look further into the story. I liked the sound of the book blurb, so I decided to give this book a go. I’m really glad that I did. I had a great time reading this story and trying to figure out what was going on this small town on the Mississippi Delta.

Billie James is a half white, half black girl who is origi
Dec 09, 2019 rated it liked it
My tepid 3 stars are probably my fault, and not this author’s, as I’ve read too many variations of this tale. A character returns ‘home’ to deal with secrets and family histories and, oh dear, another box of (musty, I presume?) letters and papers that are discovered and hold clues to those secrets. Sigh. What genre will offer me a needed change of pace?

I liked the poet dad, who, unfortunately was not alive in this book... he was realistically depicted as just obscure and good enough to be posth
Jenny Leitsch
Jul 20, 2020 rated it liked it
I give this one a 3.5. I read it online - really fast - and finished feeling a little disappointed. The ending felt predictable, and so many of the sub-characters and conflicts felt unnecessary or unresolved in the end. I liked Billie as a protagonist but wanted the revelations she experienced to be more surprising or profound.
Jul 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
I'm not sure how I stumbled onto this novel by an author who's new to me, but I'm glad I did. Benz writes well, and develops her characters and story line in realistic fashion. In The Gone Dead, a young Philadelphia woman, born of a white mother and a black father in Mississippi in the late 1960's, returns to the Delta to claim a house she's inherited from her grandmother. She hardly knew her father, who died when she was only three, and is surprised to find his former friends and neighbors relu ...more
Meg Lelvis
Oct 03, 2019 rated it liked it
I gave up after reading about 55-60 pages. i never engaged with the characters and got bored with the various POV's and their stories. Hard to keep the characters straight at first. I rated it three stars because of the good quality of the writing and the author's capturing different dialects.
Jun 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
I loved this debut novel set in the Delta. I'm a big fan of stories set in this area. It seems like the characters tend to be so different yet similar to many I know. The setting is moody, prejudicial and relations with outsiders can be viewed with suspicion. This is what Billie encounters when she returns home to Mississippi to claim her small inheritance left to her by her renowned poet father. Both of her parents have died, her mother recently and her father when she was 4 in what was called ...more
Brianna Galloway
May 20, 2020 rated it did not like it
I really hated this book; it was a sincere struggle to finish it.
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
Discussion questions 1 3 Apr 30, 2020 06:34PM  
To Be Renamed... ...: * October 2019 - The Gone Dead 1 19 Oct 03, 2019 07:49AM  
HPPL Online Readers: Final thoughts? 1 16 Jul 30, 2019 05:43AM  
HPPL Online Readers: Jimmy Fallon's Summer Read 2 13 Jul 30, 2019 05:42AM  
HPPL Online Readers: Billie and her father 1 9 Jul 17, 2019 05:44AM  
HPPL Online Readers: Let's examine the cultural context of the novel... 1 4 Jul 12, 2019 09:27AM  
HPPL Online Readers: Let's start the discussion! 3 11 Jul 08, 2019 05:11AM  

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