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by John Hart

Pub Date: May 22nd, 2006
ISBN: 0-312-34161-X
Publisher: Dunne/Minotaur

Patchy debut thriller about a son who emerges from his father’s shadow.

Working within the Southern Gothic tradition, lawyer-turned-novelist Hart depicts his North Carolina characters as haunted by dark secrets from the past. Most haunted of all is protagonist Jackson Workman Pickens (Work). His mother died a few years back after falling down a staircase. Now his father, Ezra, a crude, bigoted, powerful lawyer, has turned up at a shopping mall with two bullets in the head. Ezra’s will puts $15 million in trust for Work, on the condition that he remain actively involved as a lawyer. Besides making Work a prime suspect, the bequest plays up Ezra’s power over his son’s life. Will Work finally become his own man by walking away from the money and his unhappy marriage, turning to longtime mistress Vanessa Stolen? To complicate matters further, Work is certain his sister Jean murdered their father. He fears her conviction will drive Jean to a third attempt to kill herself. As he unravels the case, Hart fires with both barrels, stylistically and substantively. His language is often overripe and soap-operatic. “Stay away from my husband, you white trash whore,” Work’s wife screams. But Work can’t resist Vanessa’s breasts, “manna from some other man’s heaven.” Finally revealed, the darkest secret of all shocks and surprises.

Spicy but not exactly nutritious.