Review by Booklist Review
Best known for her popular Anna Pigeon mysteries, Barr breaks free of her series character in this novel, which draws on a real-life case in which a young boy was convicted of brutally murdering his parents and little sister. Like Anna, who has become more introspective in her last few adventures, the characters here are caught up in turbulent emotions, though theirs are firmly rooted in childhood trauma. A glimpse of the tragic histories sets the stage: police walk in on a grisly scene of family slaughter; an abused young girl flees her alcoholic mother. Years pass, history is packed away in boxes and pasted in gruesome scrapbooks. Then, in post-Katrina New Orleans, a fitting backdrop for people rebuilding their lives, a boy and a girl, survivors of those two tragedies, now grown up, fall in love one remembering too much, the other not enough. The twisted past gradually unfolds in a medley of grim, agonizing thoughts and memories, leavened by a surprisingly fresh love story. Barr proves adept at both pulsing horror and sweet romance, but her jagged plotting doesn't hold up to its load of tragedy. Pigeon fanciers may not be prepared for this disturbing tale; it's more appropriate audience will be readers who like dark psychological thrillers.--Zvirin, Stephanie Copyright 2009 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Reaching beyond her successful Anna Pigeon series (Borderline, etc.), bestseller Barr comes up with the brass ring: a stand-alone psychological thriller with grit, teeth and heart. At 15, Polly Farmer escapes an alcoholic mother and a trailer-park no-future, hitchhikes to New Orleans and makes a life for herself as an English professor. Polly, divorced with two daughters, romantically intersects with handsome restoration architect Marshall Marchand-who's really Dylan Raines, who was incarcerated as the 11-year-old "Butcher Boy" who axe-murdered his parents 25 years earlier in Minnesota. As Barr artfully unfolds this mystery of wickedness and pain in eerie post-Katrina New Orleans, she tackles a multitude of societal evils, from psychiatric drug abuse to the juvenile justice system, but her central conflict, Polly's fierce determination to keep her daughters safe while trying to believe in the man she loves, makes this a terrifying, utterly convincing glimpse into the abyss. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review
Dylan Raines slaughtered his family with an ax when he was 11 years old; trouble is, he can't remember doing it. Richard, his surviving older brother, protects Dylan, and when the chance to relocate from Minnesota to New Orleans opens up, they head south to start anew. Divorced Tulane professor Polly Deschamps survived her own sordid childhood and has made a perfect life for her two daughters in the Big Easy. But years later, as these characters' lives intersect, a tarot card reader predicts mayhem and death. Polly's new husband exhibits troubling behavior, and his brother confuses her even more. The interspersed newspaper snippets about infamous mass killers heighten our feelings of dread and inevitability. Perhaps we understand Dylan's tortuous plight-or is something more sinister going on? Barr's first stand-alone since her 1984 debut, Bittersweet, is stunning and a true break from her Anna Pigeon series (e.g., Borderline). Verdict Keep the lights on while reading this intense psychological thriller. The tension's so tight you'll be rethinking every motive and clue up to the finale. Much like Nancy Pickard in The Virgin of Small Plains, Barr forces us to look beyond the obvious to the hidden evils we may have overlooked.-Teresa L. Jacobsen, Solano Cty. Lib., Fairfield, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.