Tattered Coat by Mike H. Mizrahi is an enthralling tale of murder and a young protagonist’s struggle to find the courage to speak the truth when an innocent man’s life stands in the balance. Hickory Crabtree is only ten when he unwittingly witnesses the brutal murder of a young white woman. The wrong person, a black musician, is wrongfully accused and faces death. The community is riled up against him and the only one to save him is Hickory. Meanwhile, Anna Gaines returns back to Chattanooga, her hometown, with her marriage in difficulty. She gives Hickory the push he needs to help stop a murderer from escaping with a fortune and the execution of an innocent man. But in a town that is growing in racial tension, do they stand any chance of seeing justice done?
Set in 1905, this novel presents a social and political setting that is historically rich, with strong shades of the Jim Crow ways. The social commentaries are compelling and the multiple narrative perspectives provide not only variety but a suspenseful reading experience while allowing readers to see events as the key characters see them. There is a lot to enjoy in Tattered Coat, starting from the gorgeous prose sprinkled with lively dialogues and detailed descriptions. The attention of the reader is captured from the get-go and the compelling premise puts a young boy in a complicated situation. Hickory is already a bruised boy when readers encounter him, a boy who has suffered much abuse and when he suddenly witnesses a murder, his life takes an unexpected change. The author writes the psyche of this young character with aplomb and explores racial relationships with intelligence. This cleverly plotted and stunningly accomplished novel features strongly resonant themes of racism and the quest for justice in a world where the “color line” still determines social affiliations and the perception of justice. Tattered Coat is a deeply moving tale with unforgettable characters; it is well-paced and utterly suspenseful. You can’t just put it down.