I’ve written it in other reviews and I know it can come off as pandering so forgive me but one of racism’s many sins is that the Ivan Monk series isn’t more widely available.
Yes it does have a certain niche following among those of us who peruse mysteries. But good God, I go to a mystery section at my local Barnes and Noble and there’s so…much…dreck (and Agatha Christie reprints which — to be clear — is not dreck but that estate really doesn’t need more money). So many mediocre rogue detective or alcoholic PI books. So many cutesy clever Benoit Blanc wannabe whodunnits. The vast majority of them written by white writers.
I’ve sung praises to Phillips’ work in other spaces but this might be his best yet, a firecracker of a novel that touches on the hot points of racism. And it was written in 1995, a time when people assured me the political climate was calmer than it is now (which…hmmm). Tracking the seemingly unconnected murder of three Black men to a white supremacist group that is making waves on the west coast, Phillips’ writing is clear and his Ivan Monk feels human in all the best ways. No Gary Sue PI moves, no brilliant deductions, just shoeleather detective work and navigating the dynamics of the situation as a Black man the best he can.
I wish I had read this after Charlottesville because the parallels here are eerie. Many believe that Trump built a monster but he merely gave it power. This book is a mystery wrapped in a parable. And I wish it was more widely available.