Murder on Second Street: The Jackson Ward Murders (Sy Sanford Series)

Mystery & Thrillers

By Rebekah Pierce

Publisher : Rebekah L. Pierce

ABOUT Rebekah Pierce

Rebekah Pierce
Raised in California, but now residing in Richmond, Virginia by way of service to the U.S. Air Force (1993-1999), I have been writing and teaching English literature for over fourteen years. I have always loved mystery novels which featured protagonists who had their own demons to fight as More...



~~It's 1929 and Jackson Ward in Richmond, VA is known as "The Black Wall Street of America." The community is thriving as money and prosperity are plentiful, until the body of Annie Hilks is found floating in the James River in Richmond, VA. The police don't pay much attention to it; it's just another Negro woman who probably took her own life. But within two weeks, the bodies of three more Negro women are found in various locations throughout Jackson Ward, a prominent Negro community in the City. This is bad for business, and with no other choice left to them, the community reaches out to Sy Sanford to solve the murders. Sy has three BIG problems: he's returned from the Great War with haunting nightmares, he blacks out periodically from drinking and he's in love with his beautiful, but physically abused married secretary, Lena Johnson. Reluctantly, Sy takes the case because, well, he needs the money. But can he find the killer in time to save Jackson Ward and himself?

I was inspired to write this book as part of the National Novel Writing Month contest in 2009. I took my students on a trip to the Black History Museum in Richmond, VA where I currently live and there, I was educated on the long forgotten history of the historic 1920s black neighborhood of Jackson Ward. I grew up reading Agatha Christie novels and as soon as I saw the paintings and photographs of these well-to-do black folks, I immediately thought, "How would these people handle a murder happening in their community amongst this wealth and opulence?" And so, an historic fiction murder mystery was born on that day, and with the encouragement and support of my students, I entered the contest, wrote the book, and then published it several years later.

MARC DIGIACOMO "In A Small Town" ~ It's not often I read a book that I can't put down. It's not often I read a book and can see "Hollywood" actors playing the roles of the main characters. This is the case with Murder on Second Street. The author takes the reader back to a time in American history when people weren't so nice, and living was hard. The central character, Sy Sanford, an African-American Captain from the U.S. Army who fought in WW1, is a drunk and works in securities. Sy is hired to find a killer by some affluent members of his community. Young African-American women are being butchered in Jackson Ward, and it is up to Sy to find the killer and bring him to justice. This book truly depicts the emotions of the times amongst African-Americans trying to survive in a country still not willing to accept them as equals. This causes a constant battle within Sy Sanford. How can someone who fought for his country still be treated as an outsider? In my opinion, this is a book that should be read by every high school student in America. It's beautifully written, and it captures the feelings of the 1920's perfectly. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a thriller that takes place during a time in America worth remembering.

Bad Doggy Reviews "E.L. Farris" ~ From the first elegiac strains of Murder on Second Street, to the heart-pounding, tragic yet satisfying denouement, Pierce paints a gorgeous story of crime and punishment while she traces the rise and fall of a African-American Wall Street in Richmond, Virginia. With a subtle touch, Pierce weaves history into a well-told murder mystery in a wealthy African-American neighborhood. The history never overwhelms either the story or the complex characterizations, and I found myself very much identifying with the PTSD-tortured main character, Sy, who is hired by a consortium of wealthy African Americans to investigate the murders of six women.

The story never bogs down even as it educates the reader. I found myself flipping pages long into the night to get to the exciting conclusion, which I found both realistic and satisfying from the standpoint of good storytelling. I highly recommend this book both because of its exciting plot and because of its exploration of complex socio-economic issues. A strong five stars.

~~LAS Reviewer "The Long and the Short Of It Reviews" ~ Sy Sanford races against the clock to discover the connection between a grisly serial killer and the woman the murderer is stalking.

1929, the heart of Jackson Ward, the booming Negro neighborhood known as The Black Wall Street of America, young girls are being found brutally raped and murdered. The local police doesn't seem to take the dead bodies as a priority, but local businesses find that the news of a murderer on the lose could be bad for their business. The prestigious and wealthy business women and men rally together to hire local former World War I Army Captain, Sy Sanford to investigate the serial murders of young working woman that seem to be targeted. Sy is fighting his own demons. Returning to the states after fighting for his country he returns only to be treated less than what he is. Haunted by images of his abusive father the bottle is Sy's only relief to rid his mind from the demons that chase him.

Sy agrees to take on this case, it's not like his security business has any other pertinent cases in the works. At first I was mad with Sy for not getting it together, his drinking was not under control. The night he was hired he ended up in a drunken supper. I like how the author unfolded Sy's story. The more I got to know him the more I understood his struggle. I wanted him to solve the case, get recognition and live happily ever after. Reality check- the Jackson Ward is not a perfect world so Sy didn't get that perfect least not the perfect ending that I wanted for him.

Sy hired Lena Johnson as his secretary. Lena's husband is a former boxer, turned barber, who is an abusive cheat. Sy has a love for Lena, but never acts on his feelings out of respect for Lena and her marriage. I so wanted Lena and Sy to end up together, for them to have the love and happiness that they both seek. I can't give any spoilers so that's all I have to say on this.

The author did a wonderful job of building the characters description and personalities. I grew to know the primary characters, the young ladies that were briefly mention and even the murderer. To show how attached I was to the characters I was hurt and near tears that the story didn't play out like my heart wanted it to. Sniff-sniff. I wanted the killer to be caught sooner. I had one of those feelings you get when you are watching a movie, you know the worst is about to happen but you are hoping for a better outcome. Yeah, this book gave me that feeling. After a vocal No! No! I put the book down until I gathered my composure.

Through this author's eyes, a terrifying patch of history comes to vivid life, a story told with such liveliness and intenseness the description is so interesting and exciting that I was emotionally stirred. The pacing and tension is masterfully placed particularly how the flashes of the World War I scenes happen during specific times with Sy as he investigate the gruesome murder scenes.

The visual setting of the Jackson Ward is so picturesque that I could actually visualize the stores along the street. The author has a talent and gift to telling a satisfying story.

The novel is rich in authentic detail, along with style and tone. The author transforms the novel into a stunning and wide reaching novel that will evoke all emotions from it's reader. The historical aspect of the book sets it apart from many typical reads, both the timeline and place adds to the uniqueness of the story. I am glad that I had the pleasure of reading this book. I loved the author's writing style, the plot and how it all worked in together with actually historical events. There were a number of typos and copy editing misses, but over all it was a capturing read.

This was more than just a good read, it was an experience. Kudos to the author for a job well done.