four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
16-May-June-2005
user_rating: 
0

A-ForestsNightForests of the Night is the 13th book from celebrated crime novelist Hall, and while Hall has become associated with the Florida crime mystery genre he helped to create, Forests takes place mostly in the North Carolina mountains. In Forests, Hall sets aside his long-running characters in favor of a new protagonist, Charlotte Monroe. Monroe is a Coral Gables police officer who deciphers facial expressions based on the intricate movements of suspects’ facial muscles, though she finds her attorney husband and schizophrenic daughter much more difficult to read. When Monroe’s daughter disappears with a Native American family friend, Hall sets in motion a gripping tale that explores the underpinnings of hatred that’s passed on through generations.
St. Martin’s Press. 352 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 0312271808

Charlotte Observer 4 of 5 Stars
"Hall is so good he can reveal the villain’s identity 100 pages before the end and still keep us riveted. And for anyone who enjoyed camp in the [North Carolina] mountains, Forests of the Night will burn even brighter." Salem Macknee

Miami Herald 4 of 5 Stars
"In Forests of the Night, Hall again exhibits mastery of the craft. He knows, perhaps better than anyone in the genre, how to tap into the fundamental passions, like those spoken round a fire at the dawn of story-telling." Sam Harrison

South FL Sun-Sentinel 4 of 5 Stars
"Hall creates fully realized characters whose flaws and foibles don’t stop them from rising to the situation. … His rich focus on good and evil and the lasting power of love and hate in the fast-paced Forests of the Night show the power of his skill."
Oline H. Cogdill

St. Petersburg Times 4 of 5 Stars
"The story is complex, intricate, and populated by a cast that would have made Cecil B. DeMille proud. But it is easy to follow, well-written, and, as someone who owns property in the area, I can attest that Hall’s detailed descriptions of the mountains and the mountain towns convey a perfectly accurate and compelling sense of place." Jean Heller

Plain Dealer 3 of 5 Stars
"Although Hall (Buzz Cut, Blackwater Sound) is talented enough to hold the various strands and bring them to a suspenseful conclusion, he spreads his talent a little too thin with so many topics—the facial profiling, the schizophrenia, the Cherokee lore, the pull of the past and of family. However, it’s a measure of his gift that he makes each subject so interesting that he leaves the reader wanting more." Michelle Ross

Critical Summary

Hall has long been a favorite of critics and fans alike. He creates page-turners, sure, but his books are much more than that: they offer multi-dimensional characters with rich inner lives. Hall has taught creative writing for the past 32 years at Florida International University, and perhaps this explains how he mastered the skills that have critics resoundingly praising his 13th book, Forests of the Night. Though the Plain Dealer thinks burgeoning (but not always fully developed) plot lines weigh down the book, critics otherwise universally laud the novel for its suspense, historical perspective, and the way in which Hall’s characters both expand and surpass the crime genre.

Supplemental Reading

Emotions Revealed Recognizing Faces and Feelings to Improve Communication and Emotional Life | Paul Ekman (2003): If you’re intrigued by the study of facial expressions as performed by Charlotte Monroe, Ekman is one of the main researchers in the field. His books can be either too general or too dense; here’s one good place to start.