Top positive review
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"Deep-fried kindness and cotton-mouthed hostilities"
on January 27, 2003
I found this the most engrossing of the Anna Pidgeon mysteries, almost Literature in the scope of its concerns. There's more depth of characterization here and a totally convincing atmosphere of nature's thick menace to match the hostility of the good ol' employees under her new supervision. The author's fulsome nature description should be expected since Mississippi is Barr's home, but the fuller characterization may stem from the fact that Anna is running out of time for a solid love interest, as well as due to the extreme violence to which she is subjected. Only one of these terrible episodes is necessary to the plot, the other is gratuitous and features animal cruelty. My only complaint is that the conclusion is rushed and its tension drooping (or limp from the heat? :-)
Barr has a light touch but is not frivolous with her heroine or with death (unlike, for example, some of Sharyn McCrumb's Appalachian Scots stories). Barr is good at letting you build up a picture of the suspects (and she subtly make everyone so), then have Anna yank you into something else with a tiny new fact, and then do it again. That should keep you on your toes! This story has everything: prejudice, murder, kids, alligators, Civil War, crazies, punks, a cat and dog, and several cases of maybe-its-love.