Uncivil Seasons by Michael Malone (1983, Hardcover)

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Uncivil Seasons
by Michael Malone
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Copyright 1983
First Printing

"Two things don't happen very often in Hillston, North Carolina.  We don't get much snow, and we hardly ever murder one another."

So begins the story of a small Piedmont city caught unexpectedly by a winter snowstorm, and by a murder.  The polite town wants to go on believing it is still too small and temperate to require homicide experts, and when the wife of a state senator is found beaten to death, the inner circle of Hillston's ruling families arranges to have the case assigned to Detective Justin Savile, the charming black sheep of the dynasty that founded the town.  The circle has taken care of his past escapades for him, and in a place where family speaks louder than money -- and usually speaks the same language -- they naturally expect that courtesy returned.  The quixotic Savile surprises them.

Led on by the psychic Joanna Cadmean, a beautiful older woman, and supported by Cuddy Mangum, his garrulous partner, Savile starts asking questions pf people unaccustomed to having to answer them -- the suddenly widowered senator (his own half-uncle); the retired police captain; and old Briggs Cadmean himself, the man who owns the textile mills that own the town.

By the time Savile meets and falls in love with a young woman from the Carolina mountains working as a union steward at Cadmean mills, the circle is closing ranks against him.  The weave of deceit and betrayal hidden in Hillston's past begins to unravel, and Savile's obseesive pursuit of one of his own class and his determination to save a petty thief from being railroaded for the murder not only lead to other deaths, but bring the detective very near to losing his own life.

In the Southern tradition of Intruder in the Dust and To Kill a Mockingbird, Uncivil Seasons is more than a deftly crafted murder mystery; it is an evocative creation of a world, local people and landscape, in which the murders that happen are bound to happen -- and are bound to be hidden.  With a distinct hand and a Dickensian range of characters, Malone gives us Hillston whole:  it's poor whites, its blacks, its young socialites and old dynasties, its struggle between the New South's hi-tech "life-styles" and the Old South's inherited codes.  A story that begins as quietly as a snowflake breaks through to a stunning denouement as Justin Savile, heir to that old blood, learns how literal are the words "Law was only a squire to my people,  A loyal discreet British butler.  And I had read enough mysteries to know how often the butler turns out to be the villain."

Condition:  Used.  Hardcover.  Dust cover.  Pages may be tanning and discolored from age.  Previous owner's "Library Of" stamp is on the front endpaper.  Dust cover and dust cover flaps are tanning and discolored from age and show a bit of edge wear.

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    • ISBN 0739419854
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