Carolina Moon

Nora Roberts, Author Putnam $24.95 (438p) ISBN 978-0-399-14592-6
Doyenne of the bestseller lists, Roberts (River's End) may have achieved her personal best in this tense Southern gothic. As atmospheric and unsettling as a Tennessee Williams play, the story takes us into the gifted mind and troubled soul of visionary Tory Bodeen, whose childhood in Progress, S.C., was marked by her father's beatings, her mother's passivity and, when she was eight, the rape and strangulation of her best friend, Hope Lavelle. Now 26, still haunted by Hope's unsolved murder and memories of an unsettling experience in New York City, to which she fled at age 18, Tory returns to Progress after a quiet four-year stint in Charleston. Although profoundly ambivalent about her psychic ability to connect with other minds, she knows she'll never find peace until she uses her unsettling skill to find the murderer. And by opening a shop full of beautiful objects, she wants to show Progress that she's more than the bruised spawn of despicable Hannibal and Sarabeth Bodeen. She doesn't reckon on being swept off her feet by Hope's older brother, Cade, or by making an enemy and then a fine friend of Hope's twin, Faith. Nor could she have imagined that she would stumble on a chain of past murders seemingly linked to Hope's death. The mystery heats up as a wave of new murders sweeps Progress, but the increasingly intricate plot developments never overwhelm the human element. Roberts--again like Williams- seems disgusted only by unkindness; she treats most of her big cast with affection and compassion for their foibles. Cade doesn't yield an inch to his mother's snobbish contempt for Tory, and the complicated Tory is allowed to hate her own mother and wish her father a painful death: there are no saccharine reconciliations here. Even when a few over-the-top sex scenes and hackneyed phrasings slip in, Roberts's witty dialogue and moody descriptions soon counteract them. This is romantic drama at its best. 400,000 first printing; Literary Guild Main selection; author tour. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 02/28/2000
Release date: 03/01/2000
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