The latest book from Ace Collins, The Color of Justice, begins with a familiar meme – a small southern town in 1964, still segregated, still smothered in prejudice – a town where African-Americans don’t have paved streets and decent housing and certainly not equal opportunity. Then a white teen is brutally murdered and perhaps sexually assaulted.
Naturally, the first suspect is an African-American teenager whose African- American guardian just happens to be the housemaid who wet-nursed the victim in infancy. Enter Coop Lindsay, the white attorney hero whose family ties run deep in the title town of Justice but whose attitudes are modern and enlightened after a cosmopolitan education. Of course he agrees to defend the teen. And of course the townspeople turn against him. Mayhem follows as our hero’s wife is kidnapped by unknown villains, the town millionaire offers a fortune if only Coop can persuade his client to plead guilty, a cross is burned and a mob of sheet-clad drunks try to break into the jail for some vigilante justice.
Coop is no Atticus Finch, Justice no Maycomb. Coop isn’t even Julian, Flannery O’Connor’s clueless educated liberal in All That Rises Must Converge. He’s simply a caricature like every other character that populates this supposed legal thriller. It’s as if the author assembled every cliché ever created about the South, racism, the criminal justice system, hanging judges, corrupt prosecutors and honorable country lawyers and decided to use them all.
Now, if Collins had stopped in the summer of 1964, this would be just another unoriginal knockoff legal thriller. But Collins didn’t. Instead, he transports us to the summer of 2014 when Coop the elder has been replaced by Coop the grandson, come back to Justice to find out why his grandfather and his client vanished after a dramatic acquittal. Oh, and the town has been completely turned on its head. African-Americans run it now, from the courthouse to the schoolhouse. Whites can’t get a fair shake – it’s so bad that Coop the Younger agrees to defend a white teen wrongly accused of killing an African-American, believing he won’t get a fair trial otherwise.
Bottom line: Don’t bother. This is an exploitative novel that plays on ugly racial stereotypes and you won’t enjoy reading it.