* New England White. By Stephen L. Carter. July 2007. 551 p. Knopf, $26.95 (9780375413629). General Fiction.
When Kellen Zant, a brilliant black economist on the faculty of a New England college, is murdered in an apparent robbery attempt, the town of Elm Harbor is thrown into a stir. It recalls the 30-year-old scandal of the murder of Gina Joule, a professor's daughter, and the subsequent killing of a local black youth charged with her murder. Unresolved issues of class and race continue to haunt the town, leery of outsiders and all members of the "darker nation," including the new college president, Lemaster Carlyle, and his wife, Julia. The Lemasters are drawn into the investigation of Zant's murder not just by virtue of Lemaster's position but because Julia and Zant had once been lovers. She remembers a cruelty that nearly destroyed her and resents the intrusion into her ordered life with the cool and uber-rational Lemaster. But Julia also senses that her troubled teenage daughter, Vanessa, is somehow tied to Zant's murder. Both had been investigating the Joule murder, Vanessa for a term paper, Zant for apparently nefarious reasons. Julia's investigation takes her to Boston, Harlem, and France, the home of her self-exiled mother, the firebrand Mona Veazie. Every clue threatens the stability of Julia's marriage as she uncovers possible connections between Lemaster, a powerful black social club, and three former college roommates who share a secret that may reset the political landscape. Carter follows his highly-acclaimed Emperor of Ocean Park (2002) with another sharp, absorbing look at the black elite, academia, and power politics.