A long but satisfying tale of crime and death foretold that blends hints of The Great Santini, Top Gun and Fried Green Tomatoes with copious draughts of Shakespeare.
Annie Peregrine Goode—a charged name, that—is a tough customer, but easy on the eyes. (Isn’t that always the way?) So when a leering buffoon, rebuffed, steals a bit of tomato from her guacamole and makes Hannibal Lecter noises with it by way of expressing contempt, she is not at all above grabbing his wrist and “compressing nerves with an accuracy that the Navy had taught her.” Well, the Navy is nothing if not thorough, and Annie, a flight instructor at Annapolis with a need for speed—beg pardon, a “passion for velocity”—in vehicles of every description, is prepared for just about any eventuality except for the sudden reappearance of her deadbeat dad, who gave her a model airplane when she was but a little girl and then split from their Carolina home. Malone (Theater Studies and English/Duke Univ.; The Last Noel, 2002, etc.) knows that the small-town South is a subject all unto itself, and no matter how eccentric the characters, they’re wholly believable in that context—the kind who, say, board up windows in advance of a hurricane and then settle in for a film festival in the basement. (“Les Diaboliques. Clouzot. I’ve got a great print.”) The amiably meandering narrative picks up speed—“Go, Annie P. Goode!”—when Dad reappears, now apparently dying. Peppering his pages with funny conversations, learned references to the Bard and keenly observed apercus about family life, memory, forgiveness and all the puzzling ways that love and friendship can twist and turn, Malone delivers a tale that takes a little long to tell but that pays off nicely in the end.
Secrets and intrigues among the honeysuckle: a sun-washed yarn of the New South, affectionately told.