Most mystery and crime fiction features a lone heroic detective (possibly with a loyal sidekick) who captures an individual criminal and restores the status quo. A “social justice mystery,” such as the Rainwood House series of which Rainwood House Sings is the first book, instead explores mysteries arising from the status quo itself.
Individual characters remain at the heart of the story, but rather than the individual hero, they join with others to address issues collectively. They seek justice not only for the individuals involved but for the larger community.
The central characters in Rainwood House Sings and the future books in the series–Rainwood House Burns is currently in the works–activists Marlie Mendíval and Demetrius Ben M’Hidi, along with nine-year-old budding detective Samantha, tackle a host of challenges great and small with creativity, humor and collective action.
Ramshackle Rainwood House reveals itself as a place of refuge for activists: a community youth activist accused of a cop-shooting, a union organizer fearing deportation to a deadly menace in El Salvador, and a rape counselor who herself must flee domestic violence with her daughter. The activists under Rainwood House’s leaky, bat-lined roof tackle the mysteries they face, not to restore the status quo but to change it.