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Staff Picks

This section is intended to highlight books that various staff members have read and enjoyed. As everyone has different tastes, the books reviewed here will reflect that diversity. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did.

13 1/2

by Nevada Barr

If you have never read Nevada Barr’s Anna Pigeon series (as I must confess, I have not), this is a great introduction to her writing. In a departure from her popular series, 13½ is a stand-alone, stand-up thriller.

Interwoven in time and place (Minnesota 1970 and post-Katrina New Orleans) are the lives of two brothers, Dylan and Richard Raines and Polly Deschamps, a newly divorced English professor with two young girls.

Dylan and Richard’s mother, father and baby sister were ax-murdered in their sleep one evening. Dylan (nicknamed “Butcher Boy”) was accused, convicted and committed to a juvenile psychiatric institution for the murders.

His older brother Richard, also injured in the attack, has always fiercely protected him, and once Dylan is released from prison, they move together to New Orleans (with aliases) to begin a new life. Dr. Polly Deschamps has a miserable past of her own. At the age of fifteen she escapes her alcoholic mother and stepfather who live in a run-down trailer park in Prentiss, Mississippi and hitchhikes to New Orleans where she eventually attends college and graduate school and becomes an English professor. Polly’s life intersects with Marshall Marchand, a handsome restoration architect (who is really Dylan Raines). Romance blossoms. As Dylan has no recollection of ever committing these heinous crimes during his childhood, his struggle to commit to his love for Polly, and fear that a monster is living inside him will suddenly emerge, adds to the dialectic tension of the novel.

The suspense built into the story is riveting. At times I wanted to put the book down, but couldn’t stop reading until its satisfying, gripping conclusion. I am looking forward to reading Barr’s best-selling Anna Pigeon series.

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