Thursday, March 23, 2006

Phantom Nights -- John Farris

A couple of years ago I mentioned my admiration of John Farris. It's hard to believe I've been reading his work for over 45 years now. Besides Harrison High, I really like Sharp Practice and The Fury, as well as a number of others. Farris's most recent book to make it to paperback is Phantom Nights. It's set in 1952, and it's the story of the rape and murder of a black woman in a small southern town called Evening Shade. I can't help thinking of the TV series starring Burt Reynolds and Ossie Davis; I wonder if Farris ever saw it or for that matter if his editor did. I think I'd have changed the name of the town. But I digress.


There's a witness to the murder, a 14-year-old mute named Alex, whose brother, Bobby, happens to be the county's acting sheriff, but there's no real evidence that would lead to a conviction, that is, there's not until the murdered woman's father turns up. He's a doctor who lived much of his young life in Paris, and he's up on all the latest techniques of forensic science. So the book is about his relationship with Alex and Bobby as it is about the murder. And here's a warning for you crime fiction fans: The book has a lot of supernatural elements. If you don't go for that sort of thing in your crime novels, better skip this one. If you don't mind, though, this is a well-written and entertaining story. Check it out.

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