This is a welcome return to the elegiac structures of 'Breakheart Hill' and 'The Chatham School Affair'. A narrator looking back obliquely on mysterious and tragic past events; a slow accretion of information, the shifting of the kaleidoscope; an unsettling turning of the wheels as the book reaches its conclusion. And a masterful, unexpected twist at the very end.
We have a 'Southern Gothic' novel. A 1950's High School story. A meditation on Evil and the twisted consequences of jealousy.
Thomas H Cook is a writer to savour. He very rarely disappoints the reader - and here he is on vintage form.
on 14 March 2009
Master of the Delta is the story of a lonely schoolteacher, the scion of a wealthy family, who becomes involved with a poor kid in his class, a boy who is bright, but isolated, in part because his father murdered a teenager when the boy was 6. The teacher decides to give an options course on evil, and encourages the boy to investigate his father's history as part of this.
It is an engrossing story, mainly because Cook is a master at delineating a character with just a few lines. He also has an amazing feel for the Mississipi delta; the book has a wonderful sense of place.
It is a satisfying book, with enough twists, turns and misdirections to keep the pages turning, but don't come here looking for a fast paced thriller. The vignettes and lessons on the evil men of history and fiction are sometimes illuminating, but also slow the book. They feel too erudite, as though the author is showing off his superior knowledge, although, of course, it is the narrator who is doing that (and quite in character).
It is a small niggle on my part - definitely worth a read.
on 18 April 2011
I have read a few of Thomas H Cook's novels and enjoyed all of them. This is a story of brooding malevolence in the deep South. High on atmosphere and tension with well-drawn characters from both ends of society. The plot is believable and the sense of menace and impending tragedy is sustained throughout. Not a good bedtime story if you want to sleep well. Once you become caught up in the atmosphere, which you will, you have to keep reading to try to get to a point of diminished tension. A good read.
on 20 April 2010
Both my wife and I loved this book. The characters are interesting, the plot thick and gothic. Cook is a great writer and this is a top notch mystery. A nice little extra twist at the end. It's all about good intentions gone wrong. Great stuff. Four stars is my highest rating. Unless the book is a classic that would stand the test of time.