The first quarter of 2023 has already been packed with some first-class crime fiction and that trend shows no sign of slowing down. The latest book to register on the “future classic seismograph” is Time’s Undoing by Cheryl A. Head. This is Cheryl A. Head’s first standalone mystery following an impressive run with her Charlie Mack Motown series, featuring a Black lesbian private investigator solving crimes in Detroit and she’s continuing to pave new ground—throwing punches and taking names.
Time’s Undoing is a modern crime novel firmly rooted in historical fact. Throughout the narrative, chapters fluctuate between 2019 and 1929, with each reflecting and illuminating the opposite period in fresh ways. So often in crime novels, these flashbacks are less integral to the plot and could be achieved with exposition as opposed to lengthy scenes into the past, but that is not the case here. Cheryl A. Head wisely keeps these journeys to the past brief and hones her historical flashlight directly on the pertinent issues, thereby gifting readers with the sense of having been there—which then makes the present-day sections all the more poignant.
The plot of Time’s Undoing is fairly straight-forward. Meghan McKenzie is a reporter in Detroit who longs to discover the truth of her great-grandfather’s murder back in Birmingham in the late 1920s. By agreeing to trace the connection between Birmingham’s past and the present Black Lives Matter movement, she is given the assignment to travel to Alabama where she can research the story—her family’s story—on the grounds where the tragedy occurred.
What follows is a well-documented look at how reporters go about doing research into the past. Meghan must rely on new acquaintances and more than a few hostile informants to uncover a truth that has been buried for almost a century. All while navigating a culture that seems hellbent to obfuscate disturbing behaviors of yesteryear— behaviors Meghan is able to show scarily echo the mindsets of many modern citizens. It is Cheryl A. Head’s ability to authenticate a direct (and emotional) throughline from the past to present that compel Time’s Undoing into becoming such an important reading experience.
As she avoids threats to her own life, Meghan McKenzie never loses sight of the fact that she is trying to get answers for her grandmother to ease a burden that has weighed her family down for generations. The legacy of what happened to Robert Lee Harrington is a stain on the heritage of our country and until incidents like this are acknowledged, healing will never happen. Cheryl A. Head is determined to show the unvarnished truth—there are people who help Meghan, there are people who hinder her efforts, and there are people who stand by and do nothing. And that will—or damn well should—resonate with modern readers as they set the book aside and switch on the nightly news.
Now that the most important credentials have been discussed, this review must highlight the smoking-hot courtship between Meghan and Darius. From the moment these two meet on the pages of Time’s Undoing, the chemistry is off the charts. Witnessing as they tackle the challenges of a complex relationship is a delight reader’s won’t soon forget. This is a formidable duo in the making and this reader is here for more of them—anytime, anywhere.
Add Time’s Undoing to your reading list immediately and take a trip with Cheryl A. Head back into our heritage that once again proves that past is prologue and until we come to terms with that, our nation will continue repeat the same ills ad infinitum.
BUY LINKS: Time’s Undoing by Cheryl A. Head
Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the author. No promotion was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.