The first character we meet in this new Nora Bondurant novel is not a person, but a house. Nora, a character familiar to readers of Sandra Dallas novels, unexpectedly inherits a decaying Southern mansion in Natchez, Mississippi. The year is 1933. Befitting a main character, the mansion has a name: Avoca, or “a shady restful place filled with friends.” Quite to the contrary, and aside from the fact that Nora had not even known of her great-aunt’s existence, the antebellum house is also filled with mystery and a murder – the murder of her great-aunt by the fiancé she had jilted. To this disturbing place, Nora brings tragedies from her own life in Denver: a divorce from her husband and his recent death.
Few murder mysteries ever told their tale more gently. Dallas writes tenderly of a South where the Civil War remains a living memory and regional idiosyncrasies make us feel like anthropological voyeurs. Dallas provides not only an excellent murder adventure, but a well-told lesson in tolerance and acceptance.