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Bold period mystery brings early civil rights movement to life

The Strivers' Row Spy

by Jason Overstreet

Kensington Books

Mystery & Thrillers, General Fiction (Adult)

Pub Date 30 Aug 2016


The Strivers’ Row Spy is an incredible debut novel. Jason Overstreet skillfully exposes readers to a frequently forgotten part of African American history - the 1920s Harlem Renaissance and the push for civil rights by two very different charismatic leaders W.E.B. Du Bois and Marcus Garvey. The Strivers’ Row Spy is fiction, but its setting, environment and many of its characters did exist. Jason Overstreet brings history to life in a way that entrances readers, encouraging them to ask questions and dig deeper - making the novel ideal for young adults and book discussion groups.

In a country where racism is the norm and the government fears anything that hints of communism, Sidney Temple is an ideal find for J Edgar Hoover - an apparently apolitical African American college graduate. When he is chosen to become the first African American FBI agent, he feels honored. Then he realizes that he is to be used to gain information on the “radical” civil rights leaders, Marcus Garvey leading the “Back to Africa” movement and W.E.B. Du Bois. The latter, a man Sidney greatly respects. Unable to share his true work with his beloved wife Loretta, Sidney struggles between doing what is right and following the Bureau’s biased instructions. The fine line he walks places him in more danger than he ever imagined.

Jason Overstreet’s debut novel is not a mystery in the traditional sense, but I believe that fans of historical fiction and period novels will be very impressed.


I received a copy of The Strivers’ Row Spy from the publisher and in exchange for an honest review.



Stunning, suspenseful, and unforgettably evocative, Jason Overstreet's debut novel glitters with the vibrant dreams and dangerous promise of the 1920s Harlem Renaissance, as one man crosses the perilous lines between the law, loyalty, and deadly lies…

For college graduate Sidney Temple, the Roaring Twenties bring opportunities even members of his accomplished black bourgeois family couldn't have imagined. His impulsive marriage to independent artist Loretta is a happiness he never thought he'd find. And when he's tapped by J. Edgar Hoover to be the FBI's first African-American agent, he sees a once-in-a-lifetime chance to secure real justice.

Instead of providing evidence against Marcus Garvey, prominent head of the “dangerously radical” back-to-Africa movement, Sidney uses his unexpected knack for deception and undercover work to thwart the Bureau's biased investigation. And by giving renowned leader W. E. B. Du Bois insider information, Sidney gambles on change that could mean a fair destiny for all Americans...

But the higher Sidney and Loretta climb in Harlem's most influential and glamorous circles, the more dangerous the stakes. An unexpected friendship and a wrenching personal tragedy threaten to shatter Loretta's innocent trust in her husband—and turn his double life into a fast-closing trap. For Sidney, ultimately squeezed between the Bureau and one too many ruthless factions, the price of escape could be heartbreak and betrayal no amount of skill can help him survive.

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