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New England White    by Stephen L. Carter order for
New England White
by Stephen L. Carter
Order:  USA  Can
Knopf, 2007 (2007)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

I read a critique of New England White in Time Magazine. The article was not too complimentary. Influenced by the critical words, I hesitated to start the novel. But I'm glad that I finally ignored that unflattering review, as I found it captivating. Stephen Carter's verbosity allows him to flesh out the characters to the degree that we know them almost from birth, and so can follow their paths through the mystery that permeates every page. Possibly I should just say mysteries - it seems as though each player has his or her own agenda and peccadilloes to hide.

Elm Harbor is a college town, where its faculty, president and deans all reside. When a well-known and respected academic - who also had an eye for the ladies - is found murdered, the town is a hot bed of gossip and innuendo. The fact that the president, Lemaster Carlyle, and his wife Julia found the body only leads to more speculation, as Julia was at one time closely involved with the man. Thesis research turns up heretofore unknown facts about a thirty year old murder, and may have led to extreme embarrassment in the political life of several front runners for the presidency of the United States. What a tangled web ...

Carter's lengthy sentences only enhance his storyline. I can't begin to summarize the plot. It is convoluted and twists at every turn into even more corners, when it begins to sink in that the murder could be racially motivated. Racism rears its ugly head now and then. The decades old murder involved the killing of a white girl, with a black young man being accused of the crime. A black secret society is revealed. The author also comments (and I hope it's only fiction) on how politics are really run.

Carter doesn't take sides on the racial issue nor on the U.S. political system. He simply states things as he sees them, with fluidity and grace. His descriptive phrases paint a glowing word picture that one can almost see. Stephen L. Carter, author of The Emperor of Ocean Park, once again presents 'rip-roaring entertainment'. Warning. Don't take this to the beach with you. You will get so caught up in words and events that you might miss the tide coming in.

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