Played out against the backdrop of Harlem in 1943, this generally engaging, sometimes dense third novel from [the author] (following the bestselling Dreamland and Paradise Alley) reimagines the early days of Malcolm Little-the man who became Malcolm X. As depicted by [the author,] the young Malcolm is quick-witted, eager, reckless and impulsive, but also sensitive and possessing a strong sense of justice. These qualities lead to a chance encounter in which he helps Jonah Dove (the Dove family is familiar from Paradise Alley), a young Harlem minister who is struggling with his own demons as the fair-skinned leader of a black church that has not truly embraced him, despite his being the only son of the church's much-beloved founder; Dove's unfolding story (including his struggles with passing) deepens Malcolm's. The book stays within what's already known about Malcolm X's early adulthood, but [the author] covers the territory carefully. He also thoroughly captures the figures (Adam Clayton Powell Jr., West Indian Archie, the Collyer brothers, etc.) and micropolitical climate of wartime Harlem: munitions factories have brought jobs to the struggling community, but low wages, rationing, racial hostilities and an increasing military and police presence makes for possibly explosive combinations.-Publishers Weekly.