Thursday, September 17, 2009

13 1/2 by Nevada Barr

Nevada Barr is the bestselling author of the Anna Pigeon series, books that feature the park ranger, and crimes in different parks, but always put Pigeon under great psychological strain. Her new book, 13 1/2, emphasizes that strain in an outstanding psychological thriller. This may be Barr's masterpiece.

At fifteen, Polly Farmer ran away from home, where her stepfathers tried to rape her, her mother drank. Leaving her Mississippi trailer trash home, she hitchhiked to New Orleans. That trailer park had been all she could see in her future, and Polly was determined to do better for herself.

Dylan Raines was only eleven years old when he was arrested for murdering his entire family, except for his older brother, Rich. Even Rich had a horrendous leg womb from an ax, the weapon used to kill their parents and little sister in Rochester, Minnesota. While Rich went to the Mayo Clinic, a foster home, and received hundreds of thousands of dollars from sympathetic people, Dylan was labeled "Butcher Boy", and sent to DuWalt juvenile center until he was old enough to be incarcerated.

For the next seven years, Dylan suffers through incompetent psychiatrists, treatment with electric shock and LSD, and learns to harden himself against the guards and doctors. And, despite all efforts, he can never remember killing his family. He only remembers waking up covered with blood, with Rich beside him with his wounded leg. He only knows he's the "Butcher Boy" who killed his family, the youngest boy in juvie. All he has left is his brother, who testified against him, but is always there for him.

By 2007, Polly Farmer Deschamp is "a woman of a certain age, divorced, and with two daughters, seven and nine." She's an English professor with a love of classics when she falls hard for Marshall Marchand, a restoration architect in New Orleans. Before she and Marshall can move on with their relationship, though, she must meet his brother, Danny, the wealthy owner of a chain of drugstores, and Marshall must pass a test given by Polly's daughters. It's a whirlwind courtship for the couple, but the romance seems doomed when Marshall's moods turn gloomy. After a tarot card reader warns Polly that she'll kill her husband, Polly, Marshall, and Danny find themselves on a collision course with the past.

Nevada Barr knows how to twist the story and emotions to keep everyone guessing, characters and the reader alike. 13 1/2 is a suspenseful masterpiece, the story of a killer, lost children, the past, and a living nightmare.

Nevada Barr's website is www.nevadabarr.com

13 1/2 by Nevada Barr. Vanguard Press, ©2009. ISBN 9781593155537 (hardcover), 320p.

14 comments:

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I love it when a writer puts us in the position of pulling for someone we ordinarily wouldn't pull for (or even meet). Dylan, the "Butcher Boy" sounds like that kind of character. Thanks for the tip, Lesa!

Elizabeth
Mystery Writing is Murder

Kaye said...

Phew! Sounds like a maelstrom of emotions in this one. Great review as always.

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Elizabeth. Hope you have a chance to read this one!

Lesa said...

Thanks, Kaye. How do you manage to capture the essence in one phrase - a maelstrom of emotions? Very nice.

♥Jen♥ said...

I'm really looking forward to this one, Lesa. I enjoy Barr's Anna Pigeon series, but this is so different for her. I can't wait!! :)

Lesa said...

It really is different for her, Jen, although she's always been able to get inside Anna Pigeon's head and emotions. Can't wait to read what you think of it!

caite said...

I have enjoyed a number of her Anna Pigeon series, so if this might be her masterpiece, I will just have to check it out, won't I?

Ingrid King said...

I love the Anna Pigeon series. This sounds a bit darker than what I usually like to read, but given how much I like Nevada Barr, I will have to check it out. Great review!

Lesa said...

Yes, Caite, you do have to check it out.

Lesa said...

It's darker than I normally read, too, Ingrid, but worth it.

Diane said...

Great review Lesa. I have several of her books that I need to read, but this one sounds really great! thanks

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Diane. I hope you like it!

Molly Barr said...

I may be an "insider" as Nevada's RL sister (Molly), but although I'm a great fan of Anna Pigeon, I've never been a veteran mystery buff. However, I LOVE thrillers and couldn't put "13 1/2" down. Nevada's ability to get into the mind of this little boy is absolutely priceless! AND, I might add, pay particular attention to "The Woman in Red," her characterization is fabulous. Although terms used to describe the book (i.e. "butcher boy") sound very dark, I personally didn't find it nearly as dark as several of her later Anna Pigeons ("Borderline" excepted which is certainly one of her "softer, fuzzier" Anna Pigeons").

Lesa said...

Thank you, Molly, for commenting, and pointing out some of the important aspects of this book. You're right on both counts - the mind of the little boy, and "The Woman in Red". Thank you! It's actually always terrific to hear from an "insider". It adds so much to the background of the book. Thank you.