Cotton Come to Harlem is another off-kilter detective tale from Chester Himes. This is about rival back-to-the-land scams operating in Harlem. Rev. Deke O’Malley is leading the back-to-Africa movement, a mysterious Southern colonel is recruiting for a back-to-the-South movement. A heist of Rev. O’Malley’s money turns violent. The only clue is a bale of cotton that mysteriously appears and disappears throughout the story.
Grave Digger Jones and Coffin Ed do not so much unravel the mystery as they unravel O’Malley’s duplicitous life. In particular, his multiple lady friends and their mutual antipathy provide a reminder that a man who can’t keep his hand out of the cookie jar risks a great deal.