Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

John Berendt
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.  John Berendt's sharply observed, suspenseful, and witty narrative reads like a thoroughly engrossing novel, and yet it is a work of nonfiction.  Berendt skillfully interweaves a hugely entertaining first-person account of life in this isolated remnant of the Old South with the unpredictable twists and turns of a landmark murder case.It is a spellbinding story peopled by a gallery of remarkable characters: the well-bred society ladies of the Married Woman's Card Club; the turbulent young redneck gigolo; the hapless recluse who owns a bottle of poison so powerful it could kill every man, woman, and child in Savannah; the aging and profane Southern belle who is the "soul of pampered self-absorption"; the uproariously funny black drag queen; the acerbic and arrogant antiques dealer; the sweet-talking, piano-playing con artist; young blacks dancing the minuet at the black debutante ball; and Minerva, the voodoo priestess who works her magic in the graveyard at midnight.  These and other Savannahians act as a Greek chorus, with Berendt revealing the alliances, hostilities, and intrigues that thrive in a town where everyone knows everyone else. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is a sublime and seductive reading experience.  Brilliantly conceived and masterfully written, this enormously engaging portrait of a most beguiling Southern city has become a modern classic.

Reviews

Reviewed: 2016-05-30
As much as I loved this book - and I did - I am relieved to finally be finished with it.  I loved every word of it, but I swear it was magically adding pages at the back as I was reading it.   Having seen the movie years ago, I was surprised at how much of this book had little or nothing to do with Jim Williams.  I think it made the book that much more enjoyable; Mr. Berendt was masterful at making me feel like I was in the heart of Savannah.  I heard their voices and I was in their homes and at their parties.    For a true taste of Southern USA, the kind that has become a rarity as time moves on, I don't think you can go wrong with this book.  I'll be re-watching the movie soon too; Kevin Spacey truly is the perfect Jim Williams. "
Reviewed: 2016-05-30

As much as I loved this book - and I did - I am relieved to finally be finished with it.  I loved every word of it, but I swear it was magically adding pages at the back as I was reading it.

 

Having seen the movie years ago, I was surprised at how much of this book had little or nothing to do with Jim Williams.  I think it made the book that much more enjoyable; Mr. Berendt was masterful at making me feel like I was in the heart of Savannah.  I heard their voices and I was in their homes and at their parties. 

 

For a true taste of Southern USA, the kind that has become a rarity as time moves on, I don't think you can go wrong with this book.  I'll be re-watching the movie soon too; Kevin Spacey truly is the perfect Jim Williams. 

"
Reviewed: 2015-07-15

This is not the first time I have read this book, but I enjoyed it just as much as if it were. Brilliant! I generally don't care for long pieces of narration, many authors will bore me with it, but Berendt skillfully draws the reader in with every morsel of information he offers. He descriptions are elaborate, but not overly done and his characters are some of the most unforgettable I've ever read.

Would love to find more books like this one.

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