There are numerous reviews for this book wherein the reviewer flat out lies about the content for whatever reason. I wanted to focus on the dishonest nature of these reviews, but that would be break my own code of conduct. They are not my reviews. Suffice it to say, most of the negative reviews for this book are erroneous to the point that I feel the reviewers should be ashamed at the level of fabrication to which they stooped. In the end, I asked myself, "Do you really care what a group of dishonest attention whores thinks? I find it sad beyond belief that someone would feel the need to lie in an attempt to keep people away from this terrific, challenging novel, mainly because more people should read it.
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A silver-white moon hangs high over the mirror-black river and the tired levee, shedding cold light on the Louisiana delta stretching off toward Texas. I stand among the luminous stones on the Mississippi side, shivering like the only living man for miles.
At my feet lies a stark slab of granite, and under that stone lies the body of my wife. She is loved. I came out of guilt. And fear. News that confirms the rumors being murmured over golf greens at the country club, bellowed between plays beside high school gridirons, and whispered through the hunting camps like a rising breeze before a storm. When Jessup asked to meet me, I resisted.
Yet in the end I agreed to hear him out. For if the rumors are true—if a uniquely disturbing evil has entered into my town—it was I who opened the door for it. I ran for mayor in a Jeffersonian fit of duty to save my hometown and, in my righteousness, was arrogant enough to believe I could deal with the devil and somehow keep our collective virtue intact.
For months now, a sense of failure has been accreting in my chest like fibrous tissue. Most Americans are raised never to give up, and in the South that credo is practically a religion. We pay lip service to ideals, but we live by expediency and by tribal prejudice. Accepting this hypocrisy has nearly broken me. Sadly, the people closest to me saw this coming long ago. My father and my lover at the time tried to save me from myself, but I would not be swayed. The heaviest burden I bear is knowing that my daughter has paid the highest price for my illusions.
My watch reads a. With a silent farewell to my wife, I turn and slip between the monuments, working my way back up toward Jewish Hill, our rendezvous point. My feet make no sound in the dewy, manicured grass. Most of the corpses in this place had white skin when they were alive, but as in life, the truth here is found at the margins.
Most of these were interred without a marker. You have to go farther down the road, to the national cemetery, to find the graves of truly free black people, many of them soldiers who lie among the twenty-eight hundred unknown Union dead. Yet this cemetery breathes an older history. Some people buried here were born in the mids, and if they were resurrected tomorrow, parts of the town would not look much different to them. Infants who died of yellow fever lie beside Spanish dons and forgotten generals, all moldering beneath crying angels and marble saints, while the gnarled oak branches spread ever wider above them, draped with cinematic beards of Spanish moss.
Natchez is the oldest city on the Mississippi River, older even than New Orleans, and when you see the dark, tilted gravestones disappearing into the edges of the forest, you know it. I last came here to view a million dollars in damage wreaked by drunk vandals on the irreplaceable wrought iron and statuary that make this cemetery unique.
Now all four gates are chained shut at dusk. When Jessup first called, I thought he was proposing the cemetery for his convenience; he works on one of the riverboat casinos at the foot of the bluff—the Magnolia Queen, moored almost directly below Jewish Hill—and midnight marks the end of his shift. Swore, in fact, that I could trust neither my own police department nor any official of the city government. He also made me promise not to call his cell phone or his home for any reason.
Part of me considers his claims ridiculous, but a warier clump of brain cells knows from experience that corruption can run deep.
The Devil's Punchbowl