In her second novel, author Deborah Johnson takes readers on an intoxicating, ominous and redemptive journey into a special world. At its heart, The Secret of Magic is the story of three people seeking justice, but it also explores how a foreign place can worm into a person's soul.
That person is Regina Mary Robichard. Regina is a rare individual—a female, black law student in 1946—but she lives in the shadow of her mother, a prominent civil rights activist.
Regina works for the Legal Defense Fund, under the famed Thurgood Marshall. One day, while sifting through discrimination claims from Negro servicemen, she opens an envelope from Mary Pickett Calhoun stuffed with newspaper clippings about the death, ruled accidental, of decorated Negro Lt. Joe Wilson Howard, whose body was dragged from a Mississippi river.
The spark that ignites Regina, whose father was lynched before she was born, is a snapshot of Howard and his adoring father. And it didn’t hurt that Calhoun is the author of Regina's favorite childhood book, The Secret of Magic, about three children who explored the Magnolia Forest under the watchful eye of Mr. Lemon.
Once she arrives in Revere, Mississippi—also the setting of Johnson's debut novel The Air Between Us—Regina meets two people who will be important to her case, Miss Mary Pickett and Willie Willie, the dead soldier's father. The killer is soon revealed, but knowing isn't the same as proving in Mississippi. The book is more about Regina discovering that in segregated Mississippi, blacks and whites actually coexist better than in her beloved New York City. She also detects that many characters in her children's book are based on real people, and that volume's magical land finally produces rough justice for the slain soldier.
This gifted author has produced a novel which not only shows that first impressions of a region and its people aren't accurate, but also that justice isn't a black-and-white but rather a fluid concept. She leaves the reader yearning for another visit to Revere.