Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
I swear I was only going to read a chapter or two last night, but here I am at four in the morning just having closed Murder in the Grove by Ricochet’s own Michael Henry. Like the earlier books by Michael Henry I have reviewed (Three Bad Years, At Random, and The Ride Along), Murder in the Grove is a good, solid book and well worth reading.
The main character is Willie Mitchell Banks, whom we met in Michael’s earlier books. Willie Mitchell was a district attorney in the Mississippi Delta country. He had been in office in his rural county for nearly a quarter-century before retiring and moving to the big city of Oxford, Mississippi (population currently less than 25,000). By the time of Murder in the Grove, he has been living in Oxford long enough to be in good with the old geezers who play golf down at the country club each day, and it is there that the adventure begins. One of his relatively new friends asks if he will look into a murder that happened in 1962. At the same time, his successor as DA is having to bring a murder trial to Oxford in a change in venue due to the accused’s being too well known in their rural county in the Delta, making it impossible to impanel a jury. Willie Mitchell gets involved in both the current trial and in investigating the murder from long ago. And soon enough, more bodies are turning up all over the place.
Willie Mitchell Banks is a very relatable character. He has strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes he does smart things, and sometimes he does dumb things. This is not a novel about a superhero. It’s not a novel about a special forces guy or a secret agent. Willie Mitchell often carries a gun, but he’s no gunslinger. It’s a novel about a fairly regular guy who makes mistakes and can sometimes not see the obvious until his face is rubbed into it. It’s also a novel about friendship and relationships.
What else do you need to know? The total body count is about twelve, although four are dead before page one of the novel. Only two of the deaths are “on screen,” meaning in Willie Mitchell’s presence.
This is not a book fraught with tension. Yes, there is tension. When will Willie Mitchell figure out where his real problems are coming from? How will he get out of this jam? Are all the murders tied together? But it isn’t the sort of tension where you hate the bad guys with every fiber of your being and are waiting for the good guy to burst in the door. It’s a good level of tension. The main bad guy is a charming, old psychopath. He is bad enough and has been getting away with crimes for decades, in fact, for more than half a century. But he isn’t so bad that you hate the book for letting him live so long or bringing him into your brain.
Finally, it’s a book with a lot of poetic justice. As you may have gathered from my description of Willie Mitchell Banks, he is not a dispenser of instance justice one might find in action movies. When he is directly involved with justice, it is after a trial. But that does not mean that all the bad guys live to come to trial.Published in