I picked this up at my University second hand book sale in 2015 and it had sat on my Shelf of Shame until earlier this month. Midnight in The Garden of Good and Evil is a different type of book, a story about crime, mystery and wealth in an isolated Southern town called Savannah. John Berendt has such a unique writing style and creates characters that meld together into such a thrilling plot.
Title: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
Author: John Berendt
Date published: June 28th 1999
Page Count: 386
Voodoo. Decadent socialites packing Lugars. Cotillions. With towns like Savannah, Georgia, who needs Fellini? Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil takes two narrative strands–each worthy of its own book–and weaves them together to make a single fascinating tale. The first is author John Berendt’s loving depiction of the characters and rascals that prowled Savannah in the eight years it was his home-away-from-home. “Eccentrics thrive in Savannah,” he writes, and proves the point by introducing Luther Diggers, a thwarted inventor who just might be plotting to poison the town’s water supply; Joe Odom, a jovial jackleg lawyer and squatter nonpareil; and, most memorably, the Lady Chablis, whom you really should meet for yourself. Then, on May 2, 1981, the book’s second story line commences, when Jim Williams, a wealthy antique dealer and Savannah’s host with the most, kills his “friend” Danny Hansford. (If those quotes make you suspect something, you should.) Was it self-defense, as Williams claimed–or murder? The book sketches four separate trials, during which the dark side of this genteel party town is well and truly plumbed.
There is something about this book that i fell in love with the moment i picked it up. I was drawn into the small town of Savannah, each of the unique characters and the slowly building plot with a major plot twist and a bitter sweet ending. Everything is prefect about this book-the writing style, the characters, the setting, the plot and the pace. It culminates into what i would call a literary classic.
Berendt’s writing style is perfect for the story he creates. The first half of the book introduces all the characters and main players in the story and in the town. Each chapter is dedicated to one of the towns personalities as described through the narrators own eyes-which i will get to later in this review. I was so entertained being introduced to the characters, it was very much like a collection of short stories, that i did not realise there was no major plot points until halfway through the book. However, as we knew all of the main information about the town and people, the second half of the book was solely dedicated to the story and uncovering the truth behind the murder that involved one of Savannahs richest and most esteemed towns folk and a shady youth with personal issues.We have a court case (which was great for a crime and law nut like me), voodoo and many scandals. There was a major plot twist as to the true nature of the crime and the motives behind it-one that i was not expecting. The ending provided closure, and as i said before was bittersweet, but a good ending to such an interesting book.
I also have to comment on the Narrator of the book. We see all the characters, the town, learn the history, and participate in all the main events through his eyes. But he is very much a nameless and ‘unimportant’ players in the broad scope of things in Savannah. I think immediately of Nick in the Great Gatsby. The narrator is just the way in which we as the reader can interact with the book. The lack of detail and information we have on our Narrator allows us to focus on all of the other characters in this story and not get weighed down by the narrator and his nuances.
I did not want to write a detailed review for this book as you must read it to appreciate the detail Berendt has put into each of the characters, the wonderful small town world he has created in Savannah, and the interesting murder case that is the main focus of the book. This took me back to my english literature high school days (which was nearly 5 years ago) and i enjoyed reading some more classical literature as a break from the Fantasy and YA books i normally read.