And here’s my brief review of Thomas Cook’s wonderful, brand new book:
Master of the Delta, Thomas H. Cook, Harcourt, $24.00
The first element that always draws me into a Thomas H. Cook novel is his magnificent prose. Lush and musical, it’s the perfect vehicle for his tales of buried sin and hidden guilt which often take place in the oldest and most haunted parts of our country.
Master of the Delta is Cook’s latest work, and it’s a very strong addition to a truly distinguished body of work. Set in a small town in the Mississippi delta in 1954, it’s narrated by Jack Branch, the scion of an upper crust family, who, from a somewhat condescending sense of duty, has, like his father before him, become a teacher in the local public high school. Deeply interested in the question of evil in an academic way, he’s soon to encounter it in actuality.
Jack learns that one of his more talented students, Eddie Miller, is the son of the notorious "Coed Killer," and encourages him to come to terms with his family’s history by writing a paper on his father and his crimes. Eddie pursues his task diligently, and in so doing unearths old secrets that threaten the social order of the town.
But along with his great prose, arresting characters and evocative settings, Cook is a masterful plotter, and events in Master of the Delta unfold in intriguing ways, the book concluding with one of his trademark twists, at once completely unexpected and totally logical. With his complex prose and almost overwhelming sense of the tragic, Cook may not appeal to readers who like their mysteries light and inconsequential, but those who aren’t afraid of the dark will appreciate his masterful handling of every literary element and savor Master of the Delta as I did.