Lighter Shade of Brown
by Vicki Andrews
(Genesis/Indigo, $8.95, PG-13) ISBN 1885478-75-5
***
Vicki Andrews’ debut novel, Midnight Peril, was the story of an ambitious female corporate attorney caught in an interesting romantic triangle. The author returns to the legal arena as the setting for Lighter Shade of Brown.

Danithia Gilberts is an associate in a Denver law firm. She has been asked to represent Patricia Griffiths, a popular Black romance novelist. The writer took part in clinical trials for a chemical skin lightener. The tests went wrong. And, as a result, she was left horribly disfigured and has not been seen publicly since.

Danithia learns that there have been other African Americans who participated in the research experiments who may also have suffered adverse effects from the chemicals. And, as she begins work on a seemingly straightforward case, Danithia learns that nothing is as it appears to be. The process of assembling a possible class action lawsuit is hampered when the young attorney discovers potential victims are either reluctant to talk to her or have disappeared. She encounters resistance from members of her own law firm, death threats and security expert Alex Powers.

Alex befriends Danithia after an escalating series of “incidents” designed to ward her off the case. Alex is an enigmatic figure and she is both attracted to and wary of him. Her instincts are well-honed. And after a few snags, their relationship develops.

Lighter Shade of Brown begins with a premise some might find implausible: prominent African Americans who have been duped into a scientific procedure to lighten their skin. Accomplished people who hide behind disguises and the walls of their homes, rarely venturing out in public. It seemed a bit far-fetched until you reconsider the appearance altering behavior of Michael Jackson over the last fifteen years. Then the story doesn’t seem so bizarre. Add the possible complicity of a white supremacist group in neutralizing prominent African Americans and there is potential for a captivating legal thriller.

However, the suspense build-up and development of the villains are weak. Placement of the book’s final chapters could have been reorganized for a smoother transition in the action. All the elements for a riveting story are there. And, in the hands of a more seasoned author, they might have come together better.

However, Andrews does do an excellent job of recreating the civil litigation process. Through her development of Danithia’s professional character, we know her commitment and professionalism. As a result, we have a much better sense of Danithia, the lawyer. The author also crafts a very good scene describing a family’s Kwanzaa celebration.

Vicki Andrews is a relatively new author and her work continues to show marked improvement. I am expecting good things from her.

--Gwendolyn Osborne


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