The Mean Streets | African American Fiction (and More)

While Harlem and Brooklyn have been the setting for much of urban fiction, this month’s selections extend into Newark, NJ, Detroit, and Memphis. A small town in Alabama joins the mix, but the place that really stands out is Washington’s Library of Congress.

51EDo3zceDL[1]Diamond, De’nesha. Queen Divas. Dafina: Kensington. Apr. 2016. 368p. ISBN 9780758292599. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9780758292605. F
The sixth book in “Diamond’s Diva” series (Gangsta Divas; Boss Divas) continues the Memphis bloodletting between rivals Vice Lords and Gangster Disciples and the female gangs linked to them. In the midst of bullets flying, pregnant Willow “Lucifer” Washington feels her baby is ready to be born. Enemy gangster Python won’t kill a child, so he kidnaps Willow. This ride-or-die chick, determined not to be a fatality, survives a shootout inside the SUV as her water breaks. That’s only a portion of the crazy violence on practically every page of this final installment. Add in corrupt cops selling military-grade weapons to the Vice Lords, and a wicked mix of killing erupts. VERDICT A helpful roster describing the series’ characters and their intricate relationships with one another proves quite helpful as alternating points of view may confuse readers new to the series. As The Game of Thrones has reminded us that “all men must die,” so goes many members of these battling gangs. This work is urban fiction at its rawest core. Readers should be warned of gruesome murders, a horrifying rape, and no-holds-barred betrayal.

512Nd-F+efL[1]Hickman, Trice. Deadly Satisfaction: A Dangerous Love Novel. Dafina: Kensington. Feb. 2016. 284p. ISBN 9781617737473. pap. $9.95; ebk. ISBN 9781617737480. F
Hickman continues the juicy tale of who killed nasty womanizer Johnny Mayfield. In Secret Indiscretions, readers were led to believe psychotic Vivian Jackson shot Johnny. Ah, but wait! There’s more. It seems Johnny touched many lives and none in a good way. When Vivian is revealed not to be the murderer, folks in the good town of Amber, AL, maneuver to figure out who pulled the trigger. Meanwhile his widow, Geneva, and Donetta, co-owners of G & D Hair Design prepare for Thanksgiving family visits when relationship drama explodes. Councilwoman Charlene Harris’s son, Phillip, comes to town and is smitten by Donetta, a trans woman. Soon parallel stories of mystery and romance evolve as gossip and lies swirl throughout the small community. VERDICT Reprising the who-killed-Johnny story line grows a bit stale, but Hickman is spot on describing the emotional turmoil Donetta feels when she falls for a guy; the depiction of her relationship with Phillip is an important addition to romance novels.

Hill, Olivia. Murder in the Aisles: A Felicia Swift Mystery. Samhain. 2015. 155p. ISBN 51cR0b0whlL[1]9781619232129. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781619230675. F
The game is afoot in this satisfying mix of a whodunit wrapped around tantalizing erotica. Felicia Swift has earned three master’s degrees: astrophysics, forensic anthropology, and (get this) library science. Employed as a senior research librarian at the Library of Congress, this striking woman is brilliant but also possesses an unquenchable sex drive. When Dr. Dresden is found dead in the library stacks, Felicia senses foul play. Lead detective Mark Rizzo is assigned to the case, but his investigation is sidetracked by the obvious sexual tension between himself and Felicia. Felicia—with legs that don’t seem to end—also has remarkable deduction powers enabling her to piece together clues the police miss. VERDICT Hill, who also writes as Donna Hill (My Love at Last; The Way You Love Me), includes a by-the-numbers mystery in which seasoned readers will identify the murderer early on. That said, an aggressive Felicia knowing her way around a sexual tryst is a different take from the submissive woman currently populating erotica. A quick read worthy of several hours of escapism.

51P2fCxLQyL[1]Saundra. Her Sweetest Revenge 3. Dafina: Kensington. Mar. 2016. 200p. ISBN 9781617739859. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9781617739866. F
The third episode in this series continues with Mya Bedford enjoying the good life provided by her husband—and Detroit drug dealer—Hood. She thinks nothing of dropping $500 at Yankee Candle or wearing $1,000 red bottoms. Younger sister Monica is doing well with her studies, and their father is due to be released from prison. But the good times are soon unraveling. Best friend Rochelle isn’t showing up for work at Mya’s salon, and she viciously lashes out when asked what is wrong. Monica starts dating Rich, who gives Mya bad vibes, and her newly released father hits the streets with old running buddy Big Nick. In a snap Mya’s 1950s sitcom lifestyle turns into a remake of Scarface. VERDICT The extended vague set up may slow first-time series readers down, but they should stick it out to get to the real Mya, who puts an extra twist in her revenge. Saundra should be applauded for her portrayal of spousal abuse that rings true. Enthusiasts of the series will love revisiting Mya, plus a cliff-hanger ending hints at a fourth book.

Swinson, Kiki. Cheaper To Keep Her 3. Dafina: Kensington. Mar. 2016. 255p. ISBN 51fk7JqjXuL[1]9781496700728. pap. $7.99. F
In this third part of Swinson’s series, Lynise Washington is quite happy to escape the violence she instigated in Norfolk, VA. Yet she could be jumping from the frying pan into the fire by hooking up with Bishop, a cold-blooded Newark, NJ, drug dealer who kills at the first sign of betrayal. Lynise chills at a one-room apartment supplied by Bishop but comes to realize she’s the other woman. Not that she cares, as long as she has access to some of Bishop’s cash. By sticking her nose into things best left alone, Lynise finds herself having on-the-side dinner dates with sexy neighbor Sean. She also discovers Bishop’s stash taped under a drawer. Will this sassy street chick make the right decision or will everything spiral out of control just like in Norfolk? VERDICT Swinson (Lifestyles of the Rich and Shameless) has one of urban fiction’s best ears for street trash talk laced with profanity that makes it difficult to quote here. Her story zips right along, but pay close attention as clever plot twists in the last 20 pages are stunners. Swinson’s name will easily generate demand. The fourth book is set for release in summer 2016.

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