A New York Times Bestseller!
Critically acclaimed novelist and award-winning short story writer Michael Malone is the smart, literate, compassionate voice of the American south. His gift for crafting the great American comedy, as he did in Handling Sin, is matched only by his ability to create mystery novels ripped with tension, twists and humanity.
A woman's body has been foundmurdered, mutilated, tagged and addressed to Lt. Justin Savile V and Police Chief Cuddy R. Mangum. Dubbed the "Guess Who Killer" by a voracious press, Hillston, North Carolina, has a serial killer on its hands. The media and the mayor demand answers while the city lives in fear. Savile and Mangum are being taunted and stalked. Worse, they have no leads.
Plot driven in the classic sense of a bestseller, yet written with literary style and substance, First Lady is a novel you will want to read and savor yourself and share with a friend. Continuing the series begun with lauded novels Time's Witness and Uncivil Seasons, Michael Malone's return proves a thrilling success.
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About the Author
Hometown:Hillsborough, North Carolina
Place of Birth:Durham, North Carolina
Education:B.A., Syracuse University; Ph.D. in English, Harvard University
Read an Excerpt
I go riding in the mornings on a horse named Manassas. I ride the old bridle path that runs behind the summerhouses at Pine Hills Lake. The lake is just outside Hillston, North Carolina, where my family has always lived. A hundred years ago, they drove their pony carts along North Cove Road and tipped their straw hats to one another. My family's circle is wide. My circle is this narrow red clay track around the lake.
At dawn the past is still peaceful at Pine Hills Lake, so I begin my ride just as the sky brightens to pink, while a mist still floats above the cove, curling in slow drifts toward shore, as if restless beneath the dark water the Lady of the Lake were waiting to rise through the mists with her sword. This early in the day, before the Southern sun makes everything too clear, even the Piedmont can be Camelot and that's how I prefer it.
It's rare on my rides to come across anyone out on the old bridle path. Certainly I never expected someone like her.
She was standing, motionless, mist swirling around her, at the far end of the gray wooden dock. In the fog the dock looked like a road floating out into the water that she could walk on to the other side of the lake. I saw her without warning, when Manassas cantered past a clearing in the pines that opened onto a small pebbled beach. It was owned by a luxury resort called The Fifth Season, built a year ago to look like one built in the twenties. The sight of the woman stopped me as if I were racing toward a wall I couldn't clear and I twisted Manassas sideways, his long black neck wrenching at the reins, his wild eye surprised.
Slender, luminous, with hair the color of lions, she was so perfectly beautifulthat her appearance startled me the way a great bright tropical bird would have shocked me, flying all of a sudden out of the pines. Maybe it was because of the intense way she was staring across the lake that I thought of the heroine of The French Lieutenant's Woman, but the two were nothing alike. This young woman wore a thin short red silk robe instead of a hooded black cloak. No whitecaps beat against a causeway and I didn't call out to her to take care and she didn't turn around to stare at me. She did something more unanticipated.
Just at the moment when the first gold of the sun rose above the trees behind her, she shrugged the red robe off her shoulders and let it fall to the worn wood of the dock. She stood there for a moment entirely naked. Then she raised her white arms, arched her back and sang out a long lovely phrase of notes that came toward me through the woods like a magic message in a fairy tale. As the phrase ended, in a sparkle of slanted sunlight, she dived far out into the misty water and disappeared.
The bright red silk lay like a pool of blood on the gray dock, and fearful that her leap was an act of despair, I kicked Manassas into a gallop. A homicide detective, I am trained after all to respond to matters of life and death and I worried that even if the woman weren't suicidal, she might not have anticipated the hidden rocks into which she'd dived, or how cold the deep North Cove water could be even in late June.
But as I reached the edge of the beach, she burst flying up out of the lake in a spray of shaken gold hair. She looked around, saw me on Manassas, and laughed with pleasure. Then she raised an arm, waved, and as I waved back, she blew me a kiss with her arm extravagantly outflung. As long as I could see her, I watched her swim strongly away, her feet kicking a path of diamonds behind her.
Michael Malone is the literate and compassionate voice of the new American South. Critically acclaimed as one of the country's finest writers, his great gift for crafting remarkable and enduring comedies, as he did in Handling Sin, Dingley Falls and Foolscap, is matched only by his ability to deliver riveting suspense and mystery. Now, after a long absence, Michael Malone has returned to the scene of the crime. He has also come home to the South. He now lives in Hillsborough, North Carolina, with his wife, Maureen Quilligan, chair of the English department at Duke University.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Anyone who loves a big, fat, juicy detective novel is in for a treat with this one. Malone is a master of the well-woven plot, and provides some of the most memorable characters around. This is a rich, funny, terrifying book, and I highly recommend it.
I really enjoyed this series, I hope you do too.
Although murder, policemen and sleuthing are central to its plot, Michael Malone's splendid new novel FIRST LADY is no more a conventional mystery than War & Peace is a book about battle strategies. The true glory of Malone's work lies in how deftly and imaginatively he gives his characters life and depth, and how perfect is his ear for dialogue. While the 'whodunit' aspect of the book certainly is interesting and credible (and provides ample grist for devotees of the genre, including a most satisfying denouement), it is the legions of disparate flesh-and-blood people that make FIRST LADY so absorbing. This is a thoroughly entertaining book for serious readers ¿ and for people who normally eschew detective fiction. Malone is a southerner who has spent much of his life elsewhere. His arms-length fascination with the melding of the Old and New South gives FIRST LADY, which is set in North Carolina, a wry descant. After a long sojourn doing other things, Malone, one of our very best novelists (DINGLEY FALLS, UNCIVIL SEASONS, HANDLING SIN, TIME'S WITNESS, FOOLSCAP), is back and in top form. Rush to embrace this book: you'll love it!