Nevada Barr is the author of the best-selling series featuring U.S. National Park Ranger Anna Pigeon (Winter Study, Selection, July/Aug 2008). 13 1/2 is her first stand-alone thriller.
The Story: In late 1960s Minnesota, 11-year-old Dylan Raines is accused of murdering his parents and sister; only his older brother, Richard, survives. After the "Butcher Boy" is released from prison, he and Richard disappear. Decades later, their story converges in New Orleans with that of Polly Deschamp, years after she has substituted the trailer parks of Mississippi for life on the road. Polly, a single mother and professor, falls for and marries successful architect Marshall Marchand, whose eccentric brother interferes in their new life as Marshall struggles to rebuild post-Katrina New Orleans. But what secrets--and connections to the "Butcher Boy"--are they hiding?
Vanguard Press. 320 pages. $25.95. ISBN: 9781593155537
"It delves so deeply into the dark side of humankind that it will send shivers up the spine of even the toughest reader. ... As a bit of lagniappe (something extra, as New Orleans folks say), Barr adds interstitial musings about well-known murders throughout history that are so stone-cold they could make Hannibal Lector blanch in fear." Dorman T. Shindler
South FL Sun-Sentinel
"While the Anna Pigeon novels are more straight-on adventure stories with evocative nature scenes, Barr skillfully shows her affinity for delving into her characters' souls in 13 1/2 ... Barr keeps the psychological terror elevated in 13 1/2 by realistically showing how people can be manipulated--by others and by the juvenile justice system." Oline H. Cogdill
"The plot flags only a bit over one over-the-top character. Mostly Barr's smooth storytelling style keeps the tension at a heart-pounding level as Polly's husband grows increasingly moody, a tarot card reader makes dark predictions, and events spiral dangerously out of control." Peggy McMullen
In a departure from her Anna Pigeon adventure novels, Barr has penned a thriller that delves deep into her characters' dark psychologies and traumas. As in her popular series, this dual narrative features a gripping plot, polished writing, and an element of suspense. At its center, however, 13 1/2 focuses on the power of love; the reconciliation of shaky relationships--and truths--between husbands and wives, brothers, and friends; and the shaking out of past demons. Critics were also pleased to read about fascinating, real-life murders. In sum, 13 1/2 "shows a new side of Barr's storytelling talents" (South Florida Sun-Sentinel).