A moving tale of personal and social reform.

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BLOODROOT

A young black boy’s death shines a spotlight on the Civil Rights-era South in this subtle, gripping racial drama.

It’s a tragedy when little Eddie Shaver, an African-American orphan, drowns trying to retrieve a fishing lure; but the fact that his white foster father Hurley Cutshaw stood idly by watching him die–and may have ordered him into the water–could make it a crime. So thinks Harry Weatherholtz, the white sawmill owner and retired sheriff who pulled Eddie’s body from the lake. Harry loves the idyllic countryside of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, but he’s troubled by the shadow of Jim Crow, still lingering in 1957. One aspect of its cruelty is a foster-care system that places illegitimate or orphaned black children, mislabeled as retarded to exempt them from schooling, with white guardians like Cutshaw who exploit them by hiring them out as laborers. Harry pushes the local sheriff and prosecutor to investigate Cutshaw’s culpability in the drowning, but the case hinges on the testimony of Eddie’s sister Ann, who is herself indentured to Cutshaw by the foster-care system. Harry’s pursuit of justice quickly runs up against the strictures of white supremacy and the judicial corruption that feeds off them. At the same time, it forces him to confront contradictions in his character. A hardened ex-lawman, Harry has always used his size and toughness to dominate other men. But he’s also a devout Christian; he realizes that his bullheadedness is part of the problem, and that, much as it galls him, conciliatory overtures may be the only way to deal with the racist Cutshaw and his thuggish associates. Arrowood’s limpid prose lyrically evokes the Shenandoah Valley landscape and the small-town life it nurtures without sugarcoating the racial injustices that permeate it. Through Harry’s story, he paints a nuanced portrait of Southern culture as it begins, slowly and painfully, to shake off the fetters of hate.

A moving tale of personal and social reform.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2006

ISBN: 978-0-595-40178-9

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2011

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more...

ECHO BURNING

From the Jack Reacher series , Vol. 5

Smashingly suspenseful fifth in Child’s series (Running Blind, 2000, etc.) lands this British author’s rootless, laconic action hero in southwest Texas, where a femme fatale lures him into a family squabble that inevitably turns violent.

In the kind of daylight-noir setting that Jim Thompson loved, ex-military cop Jack Reacher has his thumb out on a lonely west Texas highway when he’s picked up by Carmine Greer, the Mexican-American wife of bad-ol’-boy Sloop Greer. It seems that Sloop, elder son of a white-trash-turned-oil-rich ranching dynasty, is nearing the end of a prison term for tax evasion, and Carmine, whose body Reacher sees is marked with signs of physical abuse, wants Reacher to be her bodyguard—or, failing that, kill the man in such a way that Carmine can still hold on to her terminally cute six-year-old daughter Ellie. Reacher refuses but decides to meet the folks: Rusty, Sloop’s racist, charmless mother, and Bobby, Sloop’s stupid, pugnacious brother. Meanwhile, a trio of paid assassins is littering the Texas roadside with corpses, starting with Sloop’s lawyer, Al Eugene. In a set-piece as good as anything in Elmore Leonard, Bobby sends two ranch-hands to ambush Reacher at an Abilene roadhouse filled with 20 other cowboys spoiling for a fight. Reacher walks away without a scratch, telling Bobby that his hospitalized ranch-hands have “quit.” Child twists his increasingly hokey plot into a pretzel when Sloop is found dead and Carmine confesses to killing him. Reacher just can’t believe that Carmine is guilty and teams up with Alice Aarons, a leggy Jewish lesbian fresh out of law school, who trusts him with her car, her handgun, and her life.

Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more holes in it than the shirt Reacher uses for target practice.

Pub Date: July 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-14726-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

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