The author of such best sellers as See Jane Run (LJ 3/15/91) has had a field day writing her heroines into dangerous situations and then pulling them to safety, bloodied but unbowed. In her latest, violence shatters the formerly comfortable world of a woman and her daughter.
YA-Ben Wade, a country doctor, recounts the story of his adolescent unrequited love for Kelli Troy. Outspoken Kelli shocked most of the small town of Choctaw, Alabama, when she wrote an essay in the school paper describing the sordid history of hatred, humiliation, and slavery behind the name of nearby Breakheart Hill. Shortly after Lyle Gates, a loser with a history of violence, called Kelli a ``nigger-loving bitch,'' her badly beaten body was discovered on Breakheart Hill. Gates was convicted and sentenced despite some inconsistencies in evidence and his claim of innocence. In a shocking climax, Dr. Wade discovers the truth behind the attack when he assists Kelli's now-aged mother as she puts her affairs in order, and he must face his own culpability in the crime as well. This mystery within a coming-of-age story will be a favorite with teens who appreciate sophisticated plotting.-Susan R. Farber, Chappaqua Public Library, NY
In the 1960s, high-school student Kelli Troy's badly beaten body was found on Breakheart Hill near Choctaw, Alabama. Troy had recently moved to Choctaw from Baltimore, a Yankee with radical ideas on race. Lyle Gates, a loser with a bad attitude and a history of domestic violence, was promptly arrested, tried, and convicted of the crime, which has haunted Choctaw's inhabitants ever since. One of those affected is Ben Wade, who had fallen passionately in love with Kelli, although she didn't return his feelings. Wade has become the town's doctor, giving him a unique perspective to see how at least a dozen lives were ravaged that violent summer afternoon. He is the only man who knows the whole story of the crime, and because of the guilty complicity that has tortured him all these years, there is no one, except the reader, he can tell. Cook has crafted a novel of stunning power, with a climax that is so unexpected the reader may think he has cheated. But there is no cheating here, only excellent storytelling.