So this book begins with a mother narrating, handwriting we find out, a journal to her young sons. The opening scene she is arrested after shooting a man in her home with a gun that’s not hers and taken into custody. She reveals to us that she is a former FBI agent who has also done contract work with the CIA.
Then the story fractures into a few different timelines. We learn about her family history and her childhood as the daughter of a Black American man from Harlem and a Black woman from Martinique, and she spends her childhood mostly in Harlem and sometimes in Martinique. She’s born in the 50s, grows up in the 60s, and comes of age in the 70s. In the 80s, she works as an FBI agent, mostly collecting CIs and snitches and completing routine and mundane surveillance on radical groups.
She’s approached by her direct report for a potential undercover mission as a UN liaison to the president of the newly formed/named Burkina Faso.
This novel is more of a family history novel and subsequent set of mysteries that come and go with being in a family and trying to learn about that family. Written with the young sons as an audience, we are in for the ride as she slowly reveals more and more about those mysteries. The primary one in this novel, is who is the boys’ real father as opposed to the benevolent lies they’ve been fed all their lives.
I think this novel is solid, and reminds me in some ways of My Sister The Serial Killer in two ways — one, it’s a genre mystery stitched on top of a novel about family, and two, the family novel is more interesting than the genre features. I liked this and the writing is good, but it feels at odds with its own mission.