Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Dark legacies

THE NIGHT BEFORE By: Lisa Jackson ISBN: 0821769367, New York : Kensington, c2003. Savannah GA, one of the 3 cities not destroyed during the Civil War, is an ideal setting for this suspense novel. This city seems to lend itself to tales of suspense, dark, tangled mysteries involving ancient, deadly family secrets or the supernatural. One gets the feeling that no one ever quite walks alone here; that eyes are watching in the darkness, and that, just beneath the beauty of this town of the very old South, there is seething decadence, filled with shadowy surprises. I think this novel could only have taken place here, and it certainly contains all the elements one would expect; an old and aristocratic family, a mansion made more fascinating by its age and disrepair, interlocked, twisted lives and even more twisted minds, intricately plotted unsolved murders, and a whole large closet full of very dark family skeletons. Savannah is, however, also a modern city, and against this dark, decadent, fascinating background, modern people try to live open “normal” lives, and a modern police force attempts to use up to date techniques to unravel the past. That unraveling is part of the satisfaction this book provides, but the real strengths of this novel are the presentation of the environment in which it is set, and in the extremely careful and skillful character development. Many of these characters have very serious issues and pathologies, and the author develops each in such a way that those flaws, and in some cases, those flaws are extremely dangerous, that the internal landscapes of the characters are as much a part of the suspense as is the action described by the plot. In many ways, this is one of those books best read in full sunlight, and following its twists and turns requires the same care one would use in trying to find one’s way out of a labyrinth, but, by the end, all mysteries are resolved, all questions answered, and, like sunlight after a summer storm, the reader closes the book with a feeling of hope for the future of some of the characters who have suffered so much.

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