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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

When Cicadas Cry

Narrator: Adam Barr

ISBN: 9781666659917

Publisher: Dreamscape Media

Union Square & Co

Publication Date: 05/07/2024

Format: Audio/Other

My Rating: 5 Stars + (ALC)

Debut Novel

Secrets, lies, and murder in a small Southern town.

In this stunning debut by a South Carolina attorney, Zach Stander, a lawyer with a past, and Addie Stone, his indomitable detective and lover, find themselves entangled in secrets, lies, and murder in a small Southern town.

A high-profile murder case—A white woman has been bludgeoned to death with an altar cross in a rural church on Cicada Road in Walterboro, South Carolina. Sam Jenkins, a Black man, is found covered in blood, kneeling over the body. In a state already roiling with racial tension, this is not only a murder case, but a powder keg.

A haunting cold case—Two young women are murdered on quiet Edisto Beach, an hour southeast of Walterboro, and the killer disappears without a trace. Thirty-four years later the mystery remains unsolved. Could there be a connection to Stander's case?

A killer who's watching—Stander takes on Jenkins's defense, but he's up against a formidable solicitor with powerful allies. Worse, his client is hiding a bombshell secret. When Addie Stone reopens the cold case, she discovers more long-buried secrets in this small town. Would someone kill again to keep them?

Ideal for fans of mystery, suspense, and thrillers in the vein of Karin Slaughter's Pretty Girls and Stacy Willingham's A Flicker in the Dark, as well as for readers who followed the high-profile Murdaugh murder trial, held in the same small town as in When Cicadas Cry.

  • A white woman has been bludgeoned to death with an altar cross in a rural church on Cicada Road in Walterboro, SC. Sam Jenkins, a Black man, is found covered in blood, kneeling over the body.

  • Two young women were murdered on quiet Edisto Beach, an hour southeast of Walterboro, and the killer disappeared without a trace. Thirty-four years later, the mystery remains unsolved.

  • When the cold case is reopened in light of the new, what is discovered are more long-buried secrets. Would someone kill again to keep them?

My Review

South Carolina Attorney/author/southern storyteller Caroline Cleveland delivers a dazzling debut legal thriller, WHEN CICADAS CRY. The past collides with the present when a white lawyer defends an accused innocent black man of murdering a white woman in this southern town.

A WINNER out of the gate from a new voice in Southern fiction.

*AUDIOBOOK: I listened to the audiobook narrated by 🎧 Adam Barr for a stellar performance for all voices! Impressive, my Favorite Southern/Legal/Debut and Favorite Audio/Narrator for May (and top audio and books of 2024). I highly recommend the audiobook and will be looking for more audiobooks by Barr! (and books, of course, by Cleveland)

Back to the book:

PRESENT: Set in the small southern town of Walterboro, South Carolina, there is a high-profile murder case. A white woman has been brutally murdered with an altar cross in a rural church on Cicada Road.

In a racially fueled town with tensions already, they immediately arrest Sam Jenkins, a professional young black man, when he was found assisting the victim.

White lawyer Zach Stander is attempting to pick up the pieces of his law career after he represented the wrong client. He needs a big case and a big win. As part of his payback to society, he has taken on pro-bono cases.

His love and business partner, Addie Stone, is an ex-cop and private investigator. She is his biggest cheerleader and supporter. (loved her) and enjoyed the ending.

When Zach receives the phone call from Eli to represent his accountant grandson, Sam (black), who has been arrested for murder, he takes on the case. The town is quick to want to send him to prison due to his color and the death of a white woman; however, Zach, Eli, Addie, and Colleton think he is innocent, and now they need to prove it. A jury trial coming up with some powerful players.

He and Addie are house-sitting in the area, so they will not have to drive back and forth. But little does he suspect the danger they are in with this high-profile racial case. With all the pressure of the case and his past, there are tensions between Zach and Addie. He needs a win.

Then he finds out Sam is hiding a secret related to the case and is blindsided. Colleton Burns, a retired and experienced lawyer, is also ready to help Zach, which kind of leaves Addie out of it.

PAST: In the meantime, Addie does not have much to do with Zach being tied up with the case, so she takes on some pro-bono work at the Sheriff's office, helping with cold cases. She picks up a file of a cold case of two murdered young women in Edisto Beach from over thirty years ago.

Edisto Beach, SC (barrier island): Thirty-four years earlier.

A haunting case that was never solved. Edisto Beach is only an hour southeast of Walterboro, and the killer disappeared without a trace. Now Addie is immersed in the case, and the closer she gets, the more danger she is in.

Could there be a connection to the present case? A killer is watching. Now, they have to prove the cases are connected and find the real killer before it is too late. The town's long-buried secrets are unraveling and closer to the surface than anyone may suspect.


WHEN CICADAS CRY checks all the boxes for me as a lover of legal thrillers set in the South! What a fantastic cast of main characters and supporting ones. I knew I would love it the minute I read the summary description, and it exceeded all expectations.

Fully immersive, smart, absorbing, and chilling, this debut author knows her way around the courtroom and the legal system, being a lawyer and from the area. The cast of characters was fully developed and came alive on the page amidst the racial tensions of past and present timelines.

A compelling storyline and thought-provoking themes. Movie-worthy and an ideal book for book clubs and further discussions.

WHEN CICADAS CRY is a spectacular debut, rich in history, time, place, and character. If you enjoyed David Baldacci's most recent legal crime thriller, A Calamity of Souls, you must read Caroline Cleveland's dazzling debut! The two novels have a lot in common.

If this is a debut, I cannot wait to see what comes next! Please let there be a sequel. I love Addie and Zach together and would love (please) to see them working together on more cases in the future. They are too good to end.

Attorneys always make the best authors. I enjoyed the author's note and highly recommend this gem for fans of Southern legal thrillers. Cleveland has been added to my favorite author list. For fans of John Grisham, David Baldacci, Greg Iles, Stacy Willingham, and Karen Slaughter (all favorites).

In addition, if you followed the high-profile Murdaugh murder trial, it was held in the same small town as When Cicadas Cry. I also recommend reading, Tangled Vines: Power, Privilege, and the Murdaugh Family Murders by John Glatt.

Thanks to Dreamscape Media and NetGalley for introducing this author and narrator and the ALC for an honest review. I also purchased the paperback copy. (I wish it came in hardcover format for my home library.)

I hoped to get the e-book ARC, but it is still pending in NetGalley to ensure I spelled the names properly since I listened to the audio. Guess I cannot be greedy.

@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

My Rating: 5 Stars +


“Cleveland weaves all of these elements—the good old boys, the Spanish moss, the quirky beach dwellers, the faux-friendly neighbors, and the small-town preachers—into her murder mystery in a way that will have many Lowcountry readers mumbling, ‘Oh I know that place.’”

– Garden & Gun

“John Grisham meets Harper Lee in this immersive and thought-provoking Southern legal thriller. Caroline Cleveland’s talented storytelling propels this realistic tale of secrets and history, combined with the power of contemporary passion and prejudice. The setting is authentic, the characters relatable, and the story propulsive and engaging. Standing ovation for this brilliant debut!”

—Hank Phillippi Ryan, USA Today bestselling author of One Wrong Word

“A twisty narrative of secrets and lies, I flew through When Cicadas Cry in a day. A haunting case from the past. A racially tinged murder in the present. And a small South Carolina town about to erupt like a powder keg. Equal parts courtroom thriller and gripping mystery.”

– John McMahon, author of The Good Detective

About the Author

Caroline Cleveland credits growing up in the rural South and its quieter way of life for her lifelong passion for books and storytelling. As an adolescent, she devoured classics like Old Yeller and The Yearling, discovered Agatha Christie and Steven King in her teenage years, and, later, was mesmerized reading thrillers by authors including John Grisham, Michael Connelly, Karin Slaughter and Mary Kubica.

Her dedication to the written word led her to law school at the University of South Carolina, where she earned her degree in 1991. She is certified by the South Carolina Supreme Court as a specialist in labor and employment law and is the founding partner of Cleveland & Conley, LLC.

Caroline’s practice for over thirty years has been dedicated exclusively to employment law with an emphasis on public sector, including law enforcement and local governments. Many of her clients she has represented for more than two decades. Those years together forged a trust and turned those clients into friends who shared their personal insights, opening her mind – and her writing – to different ways of looking at the world.

Caroline draws on her rich and varied life experience working in the law for her writing. She elaborates, “Law school students are warned the first day that the law is a jealous mistress, and there is a reason for that. But I have always made time to read for pleasure. Eventually, it dawned on me that I, too, have entertaining and powerful stories to tell. As a writer, I gravitate toward mystery and suspense, as I cannot resist a character who has a dark secret or is wrestling with inner demons. I have lived in the South all my life, so my stories inevitably come from a Southern perspective, featuring deceptively peaceful small towns and strong, complex characters who rely on their Southern sense of values.”

Her debut novel, When Cicadas Cry, about a high-profile murder case in a small South Carolina town rife with racial tension, will be published by Union Square Publishing on May 7, 2024.

Caroline Cleveland lives in Charleston, South Carolina with her husband, David. If you’d like to know more about her law practice, visit the firm at







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