When Cicadas Cry – A Cold Case Helps to Solve a Recent, Brutal Murder

Attorney Zach Stander was burned by his last client. Although he escaped being disbarred, his reputation is in tatters. He needs a big win to resuscitate his career. But when he’s asked to defend a young Black man accused of the brutal murder of a white woman, he’s putting everything on the line. Will he save his client from the death penalty or lose and sound the death knell for his own legal practice?

Blond and beautiful Jessica Gadsden was bludgeoned to death with a cross and left near the altar in the New Hope Baptist Church on Cicada Road in Waterloo, South Carolina. Sam Jenkins, an accountant, was found leaning over Jessie’s body, his hands bore scratches and his clothing was saturated with blood. Even though Sam called 911, as the only one in the church, he was immediately arrested for killing her. Sam’s only relative, Eli, reaches out to Zach, to take on his nephew’s case. 

Zach needs a win, but he knows the odds are stacked against him. There is, of course, the racial overtones of the crime, but it also doesn’t help that Jessica was from an influential Waterloo family and her father, Burford, isn’t reluctant to throw around his weight. Even before Sam can be arraigned, the protestors – their trucks sporting Confederate flag decals – are out calling for his conviction. Zach and his girlfriend, Abbie, a former police officer who is now a private detective, are soon on the receiving end of warnings, including a brick thrown through their window, to get off the case. 

Things begin to turn around for Sam’s defense when a local lawyer, Collerton Burns, with lots of local contacts, offers to come onto the team for just one dollar. Zach is thrilled; Addie less so, knowing that her place as Zach’s assistant is threatened. 

When it becomes clear that Zach doesn’t need her help, Addie, bored and restless, meets with  Captain Kate Williams at the Charleston County’s Sheriff’s Office and offers to take on a cold case. The one she chooses is a double homicide from 1983. During a high school party held on Edisto Beach, two young women were found dead. One of their classmates, Logan Bennett, originally arrested for the crime, was released when his alibi held up. The murderer was never found.

Addie needs to go back to some of the original people involved in the investigation, including the detective, Lee Bowen, who was new to the job back then, but is weeks away from retirement. She also meets with Emma Hudson, who as a young public defender represented Logan, and now has her own private practice. Addie learns that a young Burford Gadsen, ultimately provided Logan with his alibi. A coincidence?

Zach knows that Sam has not been totally truthful with him. But when Eli comes up with a piece of evidence that complicates Sam’s story, Zach knows that proving his client innocent just became more complicated. When the district attorney offers a deal, taking the death penalty off the table if Sam will plead guilty, the stakes have never been higher. 

Caroline Cleveland

Caroline Cleveland interrupts the story several times with a first person narrative by someone who not only killed the two young women decades ago, but also is responsible for Jessica’s death. Will Addie be able to solve the cold case in time to save Sam? Or has she just placed herself on the killer’s list?

When Cicadas Cry is Cleveland’s first mystery and she appears off to a good start. Zach and Addie are appealing enough characters to anchor a series. Two comments on the title. One, it bears more than a passing resemblance to a well known bestseller set in another Carolina, Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owen. Two, while we are bracing for the next invasion of the cicadas, except for the name of the street where the church was located, including the insects in the title appears to have little  to do with the mystery. 

When Cicadas Cry
Caroline Cleveland

Top photo: Bigstock

About Charlene Giannetti (697 Articles)
Charlene Giannetti, editor of Woman Around Town, is the recipient of seven awards from the New York Press Club for articles that have appeared on the website. A graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Charlene began her career working for a newspaper in Pennsylvania, then wrote for several publications in Washington covering environment and energy policy. In New York, she was an editor at Business Week magazine and her articles have appeared in many newspapers and magazines. She is the author of 13 non-fiction books, eight for parents of young adolescents written with Margaret Sagarese, including "The Roller-Coaster Years," "Cliques," and "Boy Crazy." She and Margaret have been keynote speakers at many events and have appeared on the Today Show, CBS Morning, FOX News, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and many others. Her last book, "The Plantations of Virginia," written with Jai Williams, was published by Globe Pequot Press in February, 2017. Her podcast, WAT-CAST, interviewing men and women making news, is available on Soundcloud and on iTunes. She is one of the producers for the film "Life After You," focusing on the opioid/heroin crisis that had its premiere at WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival, where it won two awards. The film is now available to view on Amazon Prime, YouTube, and other services. Charlene and her husband live in Manhattan.