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Billy: dead. Felicia: missing.
None of the words made sense together, but the doom I'd expected announced itself. I felt iron in my mouth, like I'd gargled with pennies, a taste like blood, a bitter taste that always followed bad news.
The setting is Oakland, 1989; the crack epidemic is at its height and turf wars are brewing. Maceo Redfield, currently on hiatus from college, is walking a fine line between respectability and involvement in Oakland's drug underworld. As he waits in the neighborhood barbershop, one of his closest childhood friends, Holly Ford, brings him the news of the murder of Billy Crane, the third member of their childhood trio and a successful drug dealer. Felicia, Billy's girlfriend and Maceo's true love, is on the run and suspected of setting up the hit. As he searches for Felicia and the answer to the mystery of Billy's murder, Maceo is drawn deeper into a world in which dealers, players, and interlopers, obeying a code of honor all their own, engage in a deadly game to capture the heart of Oakland. When Maceo uncovers the truth about Billy, the story builds to a terrifying and painful climax.
Praise for The Dying Ground...
"Beautifully written with an incredible eye for decaying urban streets. Nichelle Tramble has created one of the most accurate portrayals of violence, death, and redemption in mystery fiction. This book is smart, mean, and funny as hell. Don't be the last to discover a great new writer."
—Ace Atkins, author of Leavin' Trunk Blues and Crossroad Blues
"Friend or foe, everybody's family in this heartfelt hometown mystery, even the guy at the other end of the gun. "
—The New York Times Book Review
"Tramble's writing is multidimensional, muscular and poetic, capturing the voices of African-Americans of many ages and backgrounds without slipping into pretense or parody."
"The Dying Ground teems with the tinny bravado of young men too eager to prove themselves. [An] “impressive debut…[with] a pungent, streetwise sensibility that gives her novel its racing pulse.”
—The Boston Globe
"[Tramble’s] characterization of Maceo is often astonishing, the most dazzling facet of a consistently noteworthy debut. The author’s sure sense of structure, keen knowledge of male behavior and exquisite sense of pacing all contribute to this novel’s overall excellence. I read it fast, and I was sorry when the last page appeared….”
—The Washington Post
"A pulse-pounding urban thriller that keeps the mystery intact, refusing to show its hand until the final pages. Tramble proves herself an unpretentious poet whose sense of the inner city, its argot and its inhabitants is almost romantic—and certainly vivid. The story is … infused with immense passion and new, true grit by this remarkable young novelist..."
“Mysteries are the urban fiction; nothing else so catches up the furies and fantasies of our cities. In The Dying Ground, Nichelle Tramble turns out Oakland's ragged, depleted pockets — and hands us gold. I welcome a strong new writer.”
—James Sallis, author of Eye of the Cricket