Wednesday, December 8, 2010

13 1/2.

Title/Author: 13 ½ by Nevada Barr.

Genre: Mystery/Thriller.

Publisher: Vanguard Press.

Source: Purchased at Barnes & Nobles.

Favorite character: Dylan.

Favorite quote: “Her eyes were of moss and lichen, vines over old wood, slow streams in Autumn, rich with tannin and fallen leaves.” -Marshall

All in all: Great! I did not want to put it down.

Synopsis:  In 1971, the state of Minnesota was rocked by the "Butcher Boy" incident, as coverage of a family brutally murdered by one of their own swept across newspapers and television screens nationwide. 

Now, in present-day New Orleans, Polly Deschamps finds herself at yet another lonely crossroads in her life. No stranger to tragedy, Polly was a runaway at the age of fifteen, escaping a nightmarish Mississippi childhood.

Lonely, that is, until she encounters architect Marshall Marchand. Polly is immediately smitten. She finds him attractive, charming, and intelligent. Marshall, a lifelong bachelor, spends most of his time with his brother Danny. When Polly’s two young daughters from her previous marriage are likewise taken with Marshall, she marries him. However, as Polly begins to settle into her new life, she becomes uneasy about her husband’s increasing dark moods, fearing that Danny may be influencing Marshall in ways she cannot understand.

But what of the ominous prediction by a New Orleans tarot card reader, who proclaims that Polly will murder her husband? What, if any, is the Marchands' connection to the infamous "Butcher Boy" multiple homicide? And could Marshall and his eccentric brother be keeping a dark secret from Polly, one that will shatter the happiness she has forever prayed for?

What I didn’t like/reservations:  Not much. I suppose if I really nitpicked, I could say the story has sort of been done before. But, this book still worked well on many levels. I did guess what was going on, but not everything. That being said, I’m not sure the author intended to keep the reader totally in the dark.

What I liked: Once again, one of the reasons I picked up this book was because part of it took place in New Orleans. Although it wasn’t a main staple of the story it was enough to take me back to a City I love and use settings that I recognized.

I really don’t want to give away too much of 13 ½ away.  It is mesmerizing and easy to imagine happening, especially the beginning. It starts with a murdered family in the late 1960s, and follows the youngest son Dylan dubbed “The Butcher Boy,” who is indicted and goes to juvenile detention. His older brother still loves him, is still protective and is his only lifeline to the outside world. In another part of the country, Polly, a young girl runs away from a battered home and makes a new life for herself in New Orleans.

It jumps back and forth to Dylan’s days in Drummond where he is serving in juvie and to 2007. Polly is now a grown and meets the love of her life. But she is intertwined in the past events of The Butcher Boy murders.

Although it is perhaps no secret that Polly’s new husband is linked to those murders, the thrilling part is not being quite sure how or why the tragedy occured. The most surprising part to me was other very peripheral characters who were also victims of the psychotic mind that drove this story.

The author uses essays throughout the book to describe some heinous murders of our century, further presenting more mystery to the reader. Why are these essays included, who wrote or said them and what do they have to do with the final outcome.

The writing was rich with detail and clever. The characters were portrayed with feeling and the story moved along fluidly.

5 out of 5 stars.

Afterthought: Sometimes after I write a review, I like to go on Amazon or Goodreads to see what others thought about it. I was surprised to see that many people did not like this book. It seems that most of them are Nevada Barr’s faithful readers of a series of books she does starring a character called Anna Pigeon and that 13 ½ was too dark and depressing for them. This is the first book I’ve read by Barr so I had no pre-conceived notions about what kind of style or story to expect. This was a dark book, but I also like to watch Criminal Minds and CSI, so obviously I am drawn to these types of stories. I still stand by my review. I thought it was an excellent, entertaining read.


Missie, The Unread Reader said...

I do the same thing after writing a review for a book I really loved.

Never heard of Barr or read her work, but I like dark, and this one sounds really good.

Thanks for the great review. You should be proud to stand by it because it was fair and analytical.

Jenny said...

Me too! I always go and see what everyone else thought and I'm usually really surprised as well when other people don't care for a book I adored. Oh well, we don't all like the same things. And I can see how people who are big fans of this author would be somewhat put off if this one is darker than what they're used to.

That being said, I think this story sounds very interesting and it seems like the mystery is really well done. Fabulous review:)

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