Hidden in Plain View is Blair S. Walker’s second novel featuring African-American newspaperman Darryl Billups. Darryl and Detective Gardner of the Baltimore Police Department had worked together in Walker’s debut novel, Up Jumped the Devil to stop a collection of neo-Nazi thugs from terrorizing Baltimore.
Darryl has been promoted from reporter to assistant editor, and he and his girl friend Yolanda and her three year old son are presently taking a “test run” before considering marriage. The story open as his friend Gardner calls him to the scene of a crime.
When Darryl arrives he views the remains of a thirtish, Black, professional female lodged in a bathtub. Chillingly, there is a Confederate flag decal pasted on her face. Gardner admits to Darryl that this is not the first Confederate flag decal victim that has been found. The first one had been misclassified a natural death because no cause of death was discovered. That victim had been a mid-thirtish Black male professional.
As Darryl and Gardner are sitting in a deli discussing the case, Gardner is stricken and taken to the ER. He dies post-op and Darryl, in a twisted but logical mental way, figures he owes Gardner the solution to this crime. He appeals to the newspaper bureaucrats and with the paper’s blessing his work is farmed out and he hits the streets as an investigative reporter.
Walker parallels the progress of the investigation with chapters from the killer’s perspective. When Darryl’s paper highlights the murders suddenly the venue moves to Atlanta when another similar crime is discovered. The killer’s signature is the same: the Confederate decal and no discernible cause of death.
Painstakingly Darryl starts through the victim’s lives looking for the link that ties them together, eventually placing his own and the lives of his friends and loved ones at risk.
Walker develops his characters nicely, which permits this book to stand alone. His point of view shifts from Darryl to the killer are accomplished with credibility, although scene shifts are not always seamless. Faultlessly, the author often moves in and out of dialect, which also serves to vary the pacing in his novel.
The plot Hidden in Plain View is sufficiently interesting to overcome the occasional disjointed feelings one has from the author’s attempt to cram too much data into too small a space.