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.