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Spotlight on: November Mourns by Tom Piccirilli

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November Mourns by Tom Piccirilli Tom Piccirilli, November Mourns

For beating up a guy who tried to rape his sister Megan, Shad Jenkins spent two years in the pokey. Finally out and ready to start his life again, he finds out that Megan has been murdered and that their father wants him to "come back [to Moon Run Hollow] before you get on with your life." Megan's body was found with a single, tiny scratch on her cheek up on Gospel Trail Road, a place where even the hardiest residents fear to tread.

Set up in a crime/noir/murder-mystery/whodunit format with Southern Gothic overtones, Bram Stoker Award–winning author Tom Piccirilli's November Mourns is his best novel yet. Advancing on themes approached in 2003's A Choir of Ill Children (in many ways, his breakthrough novel), Piccirilli uses this familiar format as a trunk upon which to place many beautiful and disturbing branches.

Often, these come in the form of odd characters with memorable names. Zeke Hester, the wannabe rapist, still won't let go of his pride, bruised at having his tail kicked two years ago. Glide Luvell, a teenage girl a year Megan's junior, exhibits knowledge of little more than how her body, which was "designed by the Hollow to pass on the burden of her general simplemindedness," affects men.

Glide's brothers Venn and Hoober are walking examples of why, when you run moonshine for a living, you don't spend your day sampling the wares. Even the Jenkins' dogs have all carried the name Lament, showing the overwhelming sense of despair that pervades Moon Run Hollow, and that Shad would desperately like to escape, if only he could get loose. In fact, Shad's avoidance of his past is a pivotal decision to the plot. If he didn't, November Mourns would wrap itself up much too quickly.

Tom Piccirilli and Joe Lansdale both write about the dark side of the American South, the really dark side that most don't ever see -- they certainly don't admit to having family there. The major difference is that Lansdale's characters are written to be threatening, ridiculed, or merely present for shock value. But, in November Mourns, Piccirilli delves beneath the surface to focus on the tragedy. While Lansdale makes fun of married siblings, Piccirilli shows you their deformed offspring (whom he still refers to as "ill children").

Shad wants to know what happened, but nobody is talking; even his father begs him to leave it alone -- he's got other things on his mind. Meanwhile, other parts of Shad's past are creeping up on him and it's all he can do to just get through it all, especially when he keeps seeing Megan out of the corner of his eye. Piccirilli knows how to keep the suspense up, but even when the killer is finally revealed, it does not compare to the intensity of the trip we've been taken on beforehand. November Mourns wraps itself around your emotions and won't let go.

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