Thomas H. Cook is the author of many novels, including The Chatham School Affair, winner of the Edgar Award for Best Novel; Instruments of Night; Breakheart Hill; Mortal Memory; Sacrificial Ground and Blood Innocents, both Edgar Award nominees; and two early works about true crimes, Early Graves and Blood Echoes, which was also nominated for an Edgar Award. He lives in New York City and Cape Cod.
The author of such best sellers as See Jane Run (LJ 3/15/91) has had a field day writing her heroines into dangerous situations and then pulling them to safety, bloodied but unbowed. In her latest, violence shatters the formerly comfortable world of a woman and her daughter.
YA‘Ben Wade, a country doctor, recounts the story of his adolescent unrequited love for Kelli Troy. Outspoken Kelli shocked most of the small town of Choctaw, Alabama, when she wrote an essay in the school paper describing the sordid history of hatred, humiliation, and slavery behind the name of nearby Breakheart Hill. Shortly after Lyle Gates, a loser with a history of violence, called Kelli a ``nigger-loving bitch,'' her badly beaten body was discovered on Breakheart Hill. Gates was convicted and sentenced despite some inconsistencies in evidence and his claim of innocence. In a shocking climax, Dr. Wade discovers the truth behind the attack when he assists Kelli's now-aged mother as she puts her affairs in order, and he must face his own culpability in the crime as well. This mystery within a coming-of-age story will be a favorite with teens who appreciate sophisticated plotting.‘Susan R. Farber, Chappaqua Public Library, NY
Cook's gripping 12th novel (after Mortal Memory) demonstrates that a story often counts for less than how it's told. Here, the author takes a familiar premise‘a small-town tragedy in the early days of desegregation in the South‘and teases out a painfully honest vision of adolescent love through the reminiscences of a middle-aged doctor who dwells as much in the past as the present. In hindsight, the incident on Breakheart Hill in 1962, during which high-school beauty Kelli Troy was murdered, seems to have infected the entire town of Choctaw, Ala.‘especially Kelli's friend Ben Wade, who was secretly in love with her. It is Ben's halting back-and-forth narration, which circles the actual killing like a wary vulture, approaching it now from the present, now from the past, that redeems a story that begins by sounding overwritten and self-conscious but ends with the shock of truths discovered and truths withheld. Some painful surprises, expertly hinted at, arise as well, working as revelations of both plot and character. Because of Cook's expert storytelling, the simple plot becomes more than the sum of its parts‘a haunting evocation that gains power and resonance with each twist of its spiral-like narration. Major ad/promo; Literary Guild and Mystery Guild alternates. (July)