Rediscover: Blanche on the LamAfrican American mystery writer and social justice activist Barbara Neely died last week at age 78. Last December, she was named the Mystery Writers of America's 2020 Grand Master. MWA board president Meg Gardiner described Neely as "a groundbreaking author, and MWA is delighted to recognize her work, in which she tackles tough social issues with an unflinching eye and a wry sense of humor." Blanche White, Neely's best known protagonist, is a black maid who uses her invisible social status to evade detection and gather information, encountering many of society's racist ills in the process. White was introduced in Blanche on the Lam (1992), which won the Agatha Award, Anthony Award and the Macavity Award for best first novel, as well as the Go on Girl! Award from Black Women's Reading Club. White's mysteries continued in Blanche Among the Talented Tenth (1994), Blanche Cleans Up (1998) and Blanche Passes Go (2000).
Her publisher, Brash Books, shared an obituary from Neely's family, which said in part: "In addition to her writing, Barbara was also a Social Justice Warrior who dedicated her time and talents to causes such as Economic and Criminal Justice, Women's Rights and Equality. Her Socially Conscious work was acknowledged by receiving several awards. She incorporated her dedication to social change with her love of writing." Blanche on the Lam is available from Brash Books ($13.99, 9781941298381).