Mississippi Books and Writers

February 2001

Note: Prices listed below reflect the publisher's suggested list price. They are subject to change without notice.

Deep South Deep South

A novel by Nevada Barr

Berkley (Paperback, $6.99, ISBN: 0425178951)

Publication date: February 2001

Description from Kirkus Reviews :

Though she loves her varied postings as a National Park Service ranger (Liberty Falling, 1999, etc.) and hates administration, Anna Pigeon’s not getting any younger or richer, so she puts in for promotion, and next thing she knows shes driving hell-for-leather alongside Mississippi mud and alligators en route to her posting as district ranger of the Port Gibson District. The area is fabulously fertile (new weeds spring from dead trees before their last leaves have fallen), obsessed with the past (Anna stumbles on a group of Civil War reenactors soon after her arrival), and about to become the site of an ugly murder (a prom queen is found bashed to death draped in a sheet, her neck in a noose that can’t help reminding Anna of the KKK the locals assure her is long dormant). As always in this rewarding series, the people, from Anna’s slyly insubordinate subordinates to a local sheriff who just happens to be an Episcopal priest, walk and talk and break the law with memorable authority, and Barr paints Port Gibson and its environs, natural and man-made and -unmade, in vivid strokes. But her decision to treat all rural Mississippi as Anna’s bailiwick, instead of concentrating on the individuality of one of the national parks Annas worked so brilliantly in the past, gilds the place a little too thickly with cultural mythsas if all Dixie were a biosphere for endangered species and lays bare the contrivances of her ingenious plot. Still, Barr’s many fans, eager to see her take on every federal property in the nation, will treasure her atmospheric presentation of Mississippi as the country’s biggest little town. —Copyright 2000, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

A Painted House A Painted House

A novel by John Grisham

Doubleday (Hardcover, $27.95, ISBN: 038550120X)

Publication date: February 2001

Description from Booklist:

For preternaturally prescient Lucas Chandler, the year 1952 is full of secrets—sweet, tragic, and mysterious. At 7, he still sleeps under the bed when he’s scared and disappears behind his mother’s skirts from time to time. But he’s old enough to understand that prejudice, class rivalry (townies paint their houses; farmers don’t), and violence are part of the fabric of his outwardly quiet farming community, and that he shouldn’t be watching an unmarried teen give birth or pretty 17-year-old Tally bathing in the creek (even if she says it’s okay). He also realizes that by confessing he’s witnessed two vicious killings, he’ll be threatening his family’s livelihood and putting his loved ones in danger. Abandoning the political and courtroom venues of his popular thrillers, Grisham calls up the cotton fields of his native Arkansas for this somewhat unfocused coming-of-age story, which lacks the punch and cleverness of his other fiction. The characters rarely get beyond stereotypes (especially the Mexican migrant workers), even with respect to the 1950s bucolic setting, and narrator Lucas sounds far more like a 12-year-old than a second-grader. The measured, descriptive prose is readable, to be sure, and there are some truly tender moments, but this is surface without substance, simply an adequate effort in a genre that has exploded with quality over the last several years. —Stephanie Zvirin. Copyright American Library Association. All rights reserved.

Deep Sleep Deep Sleep

A Novel by Charles Wilson

St. Martin’s Press (Hardcover, $24.95, ISBN: 0312266960)

Publication date: February 2001

Description from Publishers Weekly:

Murder, migraines and mambos mix messily in this latest from veteran thriller writer Wilson (Extinct; Direct Descendant). At the South Louisiana Sleep Disorders Institute, a young woman lies strangled while obese accountant Henry Womack, another patient, has disappeared into the bayou. Nearby, the parents of a celebrated local freak named Boudron are found butchered, and Boudron is discovered hiding behind a screen of voodoo amulets.

Enter Mark French, a deputy just back on duty after a three-year hiatus following his botched attempt to rescue three hostages from a crazed gunman in New Orleans. Spooked by offers of help from the blatantly sinister institute head, Shasha Dominique, a secret voodoo priestess, Mark and his colleagues vacillate between fingering the one-armed Boudron and the plainly zombified Womack. But when Womack and Boudron both turn up dead, it’s clear that the bad guys are still on the prowl, even with a surfeit of good guys trying to apprehend them—including Mark’s love interest, forensic psychologist Kelly Dalton. Someone is evidently manipulating the institute’s so-called “lucid dreaming” technique to persuade innocents to carry out crimes through hypnotic suggestion.

To the author’s credit, there are one or two unforeseen twists to the otherwise humdrum plot. By the time its dastardly dynamic is exposed, however, most readers will long since have lost interest. Cut-up paragraphs and touristy descriptions of voodoo practices litter the pages without much pattern, and the prose ranges from wooden to downright leaden. —Copyright © 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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