2023 Shortlist

The Trees



In The Trees, Percival Everett uses the genre of comic supernatural crime fiction for what readers eventually realise is a more serious purpose than we might first expect. All of the usual elements of the genre are here: a series of grisly crimes, a pair of wise-cracking detectives, and a mysterious old lady who lives on the edge of town. The town, in this case, is Money, Mississippi (or, more precisely, the nearby suburb of Small Change), where two horribly mutilated bodies have turned up – one White, one Black. When the body of the deceased Black man disappears from the local morgue, only to reappear inexplicably at another murder scene, we may think that we are in familiar territory for horror fiction. It is not until we realise that the two dead White men are descendants of the men who lynched Emmett Till, the 14-year-old African American who was murdered in Mississippi in 1955, that Everett’s more serious purpose starts to become apparent. Ultimately, The Trees emerges as a passionate and unremitting novel about the legacy of racially-inspired hate crimes in the United States, extending beyond African-Americans to Chinese-Americans and Native Americans. Seldom has a writer turned the disturbing power of horror and supernatural fiction to such an urgent purpose than in this compelling novel.

Percival Everett’s The Trees is a page-turner that opens with a series of brutal murders in the rural town of Money, Mississippi. When a pair of detectives from the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation arrive, they meet expected resistance from the local sheriff, his deputy, the coroner, and a string of racist White townsfolk. The murders present a puzzle, for at each crime scene there is a second dead body: that of a man who resembles Emmett Till. The detectives suspect that these are killings of retribution, but soon discover that eerily similar murders are taking place all over the country. Something truly strange is afoot. As the bodies pile up, the MBI detectives seek answers from a local root doctor who has been documenting every lynching in the country for years, uncovering a history that refuses to be buried. In this bold, provocative book, Everett takes direct aim at racism and police violence, and does so in fast-paced style that ensures the reader can’t look away. The Trees is an enormously powerful novel of lasting importance from an author with his finger on America’s pulse.



Percival Everett is a professor of English at the University of Southern California and the author of sixteen books, including Wounded, American Desert, Erasure, and Glyph. He lives in L.A. and British Columbia.

Percival Everett is a professor of English at the University of Southern California and the author of sixteen books, including Wounded, American Desert, Erasure, and Glyph. He lives in L.A. and British Columbia.

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The Trees is a powerful social satire of lasting importance. – Free Library of Philadelphia, USA


Date published
United States
Original Language
Graywolf Press


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