Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Whodunit in Savannah

Writer John Kelso discovers that, for the price of a good dinner in New York, he can book a flight and spend a three-day weekend in another city. He finds himself in the beautifully time-warped Savannah, in the company of colorful, larger-than-life and  sometimes eccentric characters. An antiques dealer who rises from obscurity to popular host of the most famous and anticipated Christmas parties in town. A male hustler notorious for his sex appeal and violent temper. A hilarious drag queen whose personality is as resplendent as the gowns she wears. An old recluse rumored to possess a poison so lethal that it can wipe out all traces of human life in Savannah. A witch in borrowed purple spectacles who scatters graveyard dirt and chews root as she casts spells and works her magic on unsuspecting Savannahians, for a measly $25. A piano-playing lawyer/con artist who moves into historic houses, turning them into profitable but illegal night clubs.

One morning, the town wakes up to news of a shooting incident at Mercer House, in which the antiques dealer allegedly shot the young hustler to death after a heated argument. Was it a lovers' quarrel? Was it premeditated murder or self-defense? It takes four trials to determine the former's guilt or innocence-- eight years worth of social intrigue, shifting alliances, small town politics and dark magic as only Savannah can stage.

It's hard to believe that Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt is nonfiction, and that the murder really did happen during the early hours of May 2, 1981. The characters are almost too outrageous, the location too architecturally beautiful, and the situations too theatric to be real. But they are. And Savannah has suddenly become so mysterious.

The book was made into a movie and released in 1997. With Kevin Spacey and John Cusack in the lead, you know you can't go wrong. I absolutely loved the movie, and truth be told, I loved it more than the book. But the novel is still worth reading.

1 comment:

Myra Garces-Bacsal from GatheringBooks said...

Congratulations! This is one of the winning entries for the Whodunit Reading Challenge. =)