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"On his way to Sunday morning mass, homicide detective Joe McGrath gets a phone call that will change everything. Set in the blistering heat of autumn in Birmingham, Alabama, 1947, the intensely paced Kiss of Salvation by Waights Taylor Jr. explores a pre-civil rights southern city at the mercy of a serial killer targeting black prostitutes.

Joe McGrath is a smart, Shakespearean-quoting fellow, but he quickly realizes he can't solve the case alone. To help him work with the black community in Birmingham, he covertly hires African-American private investigator Sam Rucker, against the better wishes of his chief and the town's white elite. Together, the two take on a bullying police force and even the Klan in this sizzling detective novel written in the vein of pulp fiction crime novels from the 1940s.

Author Waights Taylor Jr. himself grew up in Birmingham, which explains the flawlessly atmospheric settings he describes. This history also informs Taylor, now living in Santa Rosa, in his less-than-politically-correct dialogue and action, an unfortunate yet authentic sign of the period. Taylor isn't afraid to confront the racial currents of the time, as when an innocent witness is beaten into a confession simply for the color of his skin.

Throughout, McGrath and Rucker are incredibly progressive figures, astounding even to their peers, one of whom looks on slack-jawed at the sight of a simple conversation. In fact, the partnership between the heroes here is the central victory of the novel, and if it ever feels out of place, it's only because Taylor has crafted such a thoroughly convincing context of racial fear and intimidation on a daily level.

Kiss of Salvation is a page-turner from the very beginning—it twists in all the right ways and concludes in heart-pounding fashion, when McGrath's unexpected entrance into Birmingham's high society uncovers a seedy underbelly that could hold the key to his mystery."
—Charlie Swanson, North Bay Bohemian

Below are three 5-Star reviews on Amazon.


It is not often that a mystery book works so superbly on so many levels. First we have just a great story. As you begin to read Kiss of Salvation you find yourself being deftly seduced by the bizarre circumstances of the murder of an African-American prostitute in 1947 Birmingham, Alabama. Investigating the murder, liberal-minded detective Joe McGrath runs through a colorful and diverse cast of characters who nevertheless all have one thing in common--each is a product, or victim, if you will, in one way or the other, of the racism that ruled the South at that time. After a second similar murder, Detective McGrath is convinced that both are tied to a ritualistic, upper-crust sex ring exploiting young black women. But only after the mystery is brought to a tautly rendered, very satisfying resolution, do you realize that the author, by threading his story with a stream of painful details of life at the time, has also drawn us a picture of racism that a reader won't soon forget. A lot going for one book.
—Tod Brennan, Chicago, IL


The traditional American detective novel has almost always been long on sex and violence and short on sense of place and character. But that has now been altered in my estimation by the writer Waights Taylor Jr. and his exceptional southern mystery, "Kiss of Salvation". Taylor offers a broad panoply of the south in 1947, carefully detailing the first stirrings of the forthcoming civil rights struggle, the corrosive political entanglements and the virulence of racial segregation. Likewise there is a gallery of colorful characters who represent wealth and power and attitudinal paucity, self-righteous religious leaders and corrupt city officials. And it is against this tapestry of intrigue that Taylor so vividly presents his fictional Birmingham, with its back alley conspiracies, human trafficking, and a series of grisly murders. Further, the unraveling of these mysteries is by the unlikely pairing of a white homicide detective by the name of Joe McGrath, and a black private investigator, Sam Rucker. Nowhere in any detective fiction that I know of has there ever been a least-likely but so-successful a duo and their step-by-step solutions. And as to the culprit of the deaths (singular in deed but multitudinous in contributors), Taylor makes you read (and re-read) every detail, including his intriguing title. And yes, there is sex too. In fact, Taylor just might be the new Mickey Spillane.
—James Kaye


For those who like razor sharp suspense, intriguing characters, mystifying mystery, the new detective novel "Kiss of Salvation", by Waights Taylor Jr. may be just the right book for you. Set in Birmingham, Alabama, you can almost feel the tension in the dark alleys where the victims are hopelessly attracted to their fate. A racist police chief assigns a homicide detective to the case - and the plot becomes intense, dark, and a surprise private eye also becomes involved in the investigation. The book takes us back to the dawn of the Civil Rights movement. It's a setting for a complete matrix of mystery in the American South. Taylor knows how to tell his story well and the reader is challenged to solve the mystery - and the motivation that leads to the fateful "Kiss of Salvation."
—Kal Peyton, Napa, CA

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