The Devil's Half Acre by Joyce Carol Oates
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is the second book of the Winterthurn series and is marginally better than the first. The plot centers around a small plot of land with an unrepentant sinner buried on it and a reputation for sinister happenings. Five shop or mill girls end up being murdered there by what they call the "Gentleman Suitor." It is pretty easy to figure out who the murderer is as the reader follows the young detective, Xavier Kilgarvan around his home town of Winterthurn. Even getting the proof of the murders is not too difficult, but the trials are something else. There is a lot that doesn't ring true and while Xavier solves the crime, the reader is left very unsettled.
I found this book to be more satisfying to read than the first one until the end of the trial. From then on, I felt like the book unraveled. As with the first of this series, the book could have been good, but it just doesn't quite make it. The author may want to demonstrate that in real life, crimes don't always wrap themselves up neatly, but if that was what I wanted, I would read true crime, which I also enjoy. The best true crime writers, however, manage find as much background as they possibly can to attempt to explain the workings of the criminal's mind and to present as much of a resolution as is possible. I feel like good fiction should go even further since the murderer is known to the author and has been created with a personality which should follow a kind of logic, even if it is twisted, at least as it applies to the most important aspects of the crime.
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