All That is Secret (Annalee Spain #1). Patricia Raybon. Tyndale House (2021). 400 pages. Genre: Mystery, Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction.
First Lines of the Prologue: "November 1922. The little baby was four hours old. Still unwashed. Barely crying."
Summary (Goodreads): In the winter of 1923, Professor Annalee Spain--a daring but overworked theologian at a small Chicago Bible college--receives a cryptic telegram calling her home to Denver to solve the mystery of the murder of her beloved but estranged father.
For a young Black woman, searching for answers in a city ruled by the KKK could mean real danger. Still, with her literary hero Sherlock Holmes as inspiration, Annalee launches her hunt for clues, attracting two surprising allies: Eddie, a relentless young white boy searching for his missing father, and Jack, a handsome Black pastor who loves nightclub dancing and rides in his sporty car, awakening Annalee's heart to the surprising highs and lows of romantic love.
With their help, Annalee follows clues that land her among Denver's powerful elite. But when their sleuthing unravels sinister motives and deep secrets, Annalee confronts the dangerous truths and beliefs that could make her a victim too.
My thoughts: This is a great start to a mystery series. Annalee Spain grew up in Colorado, mostly raised by her alcoholic father. She never knew her mother. When her father wasn't around or incapacitated, the ladies in the neighborhood looked out for her. Annalee was determined to rise above a life of poverty. When she went to college and became a professor, her father was so proud of her. In fact, they were mending their relationship. Joe Spain was planning a trip to Chicago to visit Annalee. But he never showed up. They say he fell from a train. Annalee suspects he was pushed and is determined to find out the truth.
There is lots of action and suspense intermixed with quieter times. Unraveling the mystery isn't easy, but there are threads to pull. Everybody knows something, but most aren't talking. Unfortunately, the city of Denver is run by the KKK. Everybody is under their thumb including the police. Annalee does put herself in some dangerous situations in order to learn things, but they are not unrealistic. Mostly she learns things by listening. She is a fan of Sherlock Holmes and each chapter starts with a quote from one of his stories.
The collection of secondary characters is great. Mrs. Stallworth, her landlady, is the closest thing to a mother she has. Eddie, an orphan with no home, is completely loyal to Annalee after she gives him some dinner when he would have gone without. Reverend Jack Robert Blake, current pastor at Mount Moriah AME does all he can to help and protect Annalee. And then there is Sidney Castle who seems to be helping Annalee, but she is not sure why.
I really got a feel for Denver of the 1920's. The atmosphere was tense. The neighborhoods segregated and favor given to whoever had the most money. The KKK members had their hands in everything, even the churches. The author includes a note at the back of the book indicating that she grew up in Colorado along with some of the history she incorporated in the book.
She says, "The Ku Klux Klan's 1920s revival, meantime, was legendary in Colorado, where membership was the second largest per capita in the United States (after Indiana) - claiming between 55,000 and 75,000 members, including women. The Grand Dragon of Colorado's Klan was not Eddie Brown Sr. (my fictional name), but a homeopathic physician named Dr. John Galen Locke, who engineered a hate campaign against Jews, Blacks, Catholics, and immigrants, declaring that only native-born, English-speaking, white Protestants were 100 percent American."
There is a strong faith-thread in the story about trusting God and not trying to do things on your own.
Overall this was an absorbing read that kept me turning pages. I am so glad this is a series and look forward to reading the newly released second book, Double the Lies.
"Of the arrogance it took to believe she could study God or comprehend who God is in a world that rarely makes a lick of sense, because it's so God-forsaken and desperate and crazy."
"She'd been walking in circles. Moving and going. Aimless. Distracted. Letting life happen to her. Never planning it. Or deciding clearly where she was going. That's how she ended up at the Bible college. It was only one of seven, after learning she was colored, that would take her. But what did she learn there that mattered now? Finally this: God is visionary. Tactical. A planner. A builder. Laboring with detailed plans."