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"Shots rang out in Savannah's grandest mansion in the misty, early morning hours of May 2, 1981. Was it murder or self-defense? For nearly a decade, the shooting and its aftermath reverberated throughout this hauntingly beautiful city of moss-hung oaks and shaded squares." This is the first two sentences of the blurb on the inside cover of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. So you know the book will be about a murder, but amazingly, the murder is not even mentioned until page 169. I actually went back to read the blurb after about 100 pages to make sure that I wasn't wrong about the murder as a coming attraction.
This is a very enjoyable book if you enjoy reading about a bunch of quirky characters, which is what those first 169 pages were full of. Savannah, Georgia had its share of these characters, and the author, John Berendt, seems to have met them all. What I found a little strange was why so many of them are mentioned since they have nothing whatsoever to do with the murder. Many of them don't seem to have ever even met the accused or the victim. It was fun to read about the man who has a poison strong enough to kill all of Savannah, about Chablis, the black drag queen, and about the ladies who belong to the Married Woman's Card Club and so on. But they are all background characters with no ties to the main event. Readers who love this book, and there are many, may think I am talking smack about their beloved book, but I think all of these characters are just filler. Interesting filler but unnecessary information nonetheless.
Criticism about all of that aside, the murder itself and the subsequent trials, (and yes, there was more than one) were pretty titillating. I have to wonder how I would have voted if I were on one of these juries. I really don't know given what they heard during the trials as opposed to what I knew from the story in this book. So I enjoyed the book even though I thought the quirky characters should have been introduced with much more brevity. In the end, it was a sad, sad story, but I suppose murder generally is.