Following Bebe Moore Campbell's Your Blues Ain't Like Mine (1992), here's another (and far superior) first novel based on the 1955 Mississippi lynching of the teenager Emmett Till. Nordan, a white Mississippian, has set Till's murder in the freaky fictional world he's created in three story collections (Music of the Swamp, 1991, etc.). Most of Nordan's cast live in Balance Due, ``the white-trash ghetto'' in the town of Arrow Catcher. Foremost among them is Alice Conroy, the young, idealistic, disappointed-in-love fourth-grade teacher who will emerge as the conscience of the white community. Alice is keeping house for Uncle Runt, the town drunk and gravedigger, whose wife has just left him. Close by is robber and wife-beater Solon Gregg: Solon's son tried to set his daddy on fire but burnt himself to a crisp instead. All of these people are shockingly alone, watched over by buzzards ancient enough to have feasted on the Confederate dead. Into this world of lost souls, forever surprised by their thoughts and actions, comes Bobo (Till's actual nickname), down south from Chicago to spend the summer with Uncle and Auntee. For whistling at a white woman, ``a normal and decent testing of adolescent limits in a hopeful world,'' Bobo is murdered by the wretched Solon, an onlooker and hired gun for the woman's husband, a Delta grandee. Alice has had a vision of a dead child in the river but, recognizing ``the futility of magic,'' gone back to sleep. More tragically, Uncle and Auntee recognize even their stouthearted love cannot protect Bobo from the white man's mischief, though Uncle will courageously identify Solon at the trial, which is disrupted by Uncle Runt's African parrot (more futile magic). By showing Till's murder through the scrim of magic realism, Nordan, without blinking at the horror, has allowed his benighted characters a glimpse of transcendence. The result is a high-wire act—of surprising tenderness—that can only enhance Nordan's reputation.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1993

ISBN: 1-56512-028-0

Page Count: 308

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1993

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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


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

Did you like this book?

As usual, Patterson (Cradle and All, p. 262, etc.) provides a nonstop alternation of felonies and righteous retribution...


Who’s robbing all those banks and kidnapping all those people and killing all those accomplices? It’s somebody calling himself the Mastermind—a comic-book sobriquet that represents everything that’s wrong with the latest installment in Patterson’s Alex Cross franchise.

A young woman robs a bank in suburban Maryland and threatens to kill the manager’s family if she’s kept from meeting her timetable. She’s less than a minute late out the door, so the family dies. So does the robber. So do all the staff at a second bank after somebody tips the police off. Who could possibly be so ruthless? It’s the Mastermind, the evil genius who set up both robberies intending murder from the beginning—even warning the cops the second time. And robbing banks is only the beginning for the megalomaniac, who’s plotting a group abduction worth $30 million and a series of maneuvers that’ll feed his cat’s-paws to the police, or to the fishes. And since the Mastermind likes to see families suffer, he vows to take the war of nerves right to forensic psychologist Cross. But if he wants to ruin the D.C. detective’s life, he’ll have to stand in line, since Cross’s girlfriend Christine Johnson is pulling away from him and his daughter Jannie is suddenly having seizures. Despite his prowess with guns and fists, and his awesome insight into other people’s minds, Cross would be desperate if it weren’t for the timely embraces of FBI agent Betsey Cavalierre, to whom he’ll make passionate love while telling her, “I like being with you. A lot. Even more than I expected.” With an adversary like that, how can the Mastermind prevail?

As usual, Patterson (Cradle and All, p. 262, etc.) provides a nonstop alternation of felonies and righteous retribution unclouded by texture, thought, or moral complexity, to produce the speediest tosh on the planet.

Pub Date: Nov. 20, 2000

ISBN: 0-316-69325-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2000

Did you like this book?