By Sarah Weinman
“I prefer to read crime series in chronological order. That way you see the protagonist grow and change over time, and have a richer experience reading later volumes. But Cheryl A. Head’s chilling and prescient WARN ME WHEN IT’S TIME (Bywater Books, 285 pp., paper, $16.95), the sixth novel featuring the private investigator Charlie Mack, has me questioning this ingrained belief, knowing there are several book-length investigations to catch up on, preferably by bingeing them.
Charlie and her associates are hired to look into the 2009 death of an imam in Dearborn, Mich., after his mosque is firebombed. His family has lost confidence in law enforcement, fearful that prejudice and indifference will freeze the case. “Initially they were very interested and informative,” the imam’s daughter tells Charlie, “but for two weeks our contact in the hate crimes unit has not returned our repeated calls.” Although Charlie later apprises the police of her involvement in the case, she doesn’t trust them; she was disillusioned by her previous job at the Department of Homeland Security over the way the agency profiled the local Muslim community.
The imam’s murder connects to a network of far-right nationalists, which in 2009 garnered far less attention than now. Head plumbs these scary depths with great care, showing how hate infects the pliable, and how, for Charlie and her colleagues, it can never be anything less than personal and political.”
A Detroit native, Cheryl A. Head now lives on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. She is a two-time Lambda Literary Award finalist and her work is included in the Detroit Public Library’s African American Booklist. In 2019, Head was inducted into the Saints & Sinners Hall of Fame. She currently serves as a national board member for Bouchercon.