Cover image for Southern exposure
Southern exposure
Rice, Linda Lightsey, 1950-
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First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Doubleday, [1991]

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Reviews 3

Booklist Review

A masterfully executed contemporary tale about the breach of trust that occurs when a murder shakes up a small, close-knit town in South Carolina's low country. Rice, a promising new author, turns out a sterling performance with this debut novel. Part detective thriller and part elegy to wholesome, old-fashioned living a la TV's fictional town of Mayberry, this lush, leisurely paced drama abounds with memorable, full-bodied characters through whom we vicariously experience the suspicions, doubts, and dislocations that murder heaps on a small community. At story's center is Stoney McFarland, the town's "prodigal son," who discovers the grisly murder of an elderly neighbor. His idealism and sense of sanctuary shattered, Stoney becomes hell-bent on ferreting out the killer. Could it be no-good drifter J. T. Turner, or the mad voodoo lady, Maum Chrish, who lives near the swamps, or someone known to and trusted by all? Suspense builds and peaks as, bit by bit, the town's darkest secrets unfold. A riveting, imagistic saga rich with local color. ~--Mary Banas

Publisher's Weekly Review

In her first novel Rice presents a cast of passionate, colorful characters in a sultry, lush, Southern-gothic setting. Most of the residents of small, quiet Essex, S.C., know each other. Neighbors tend their gardens and leave the doors to their homes unlocked. City-dwellers like 30-ish engineer Stoney McFarland and his photographer wife Anna move to Essex to enjoy a simpler way of life--that is until Sarah Roth, a town matriarch, is found brutally murdered. Maum Chrish, a black woman who practices voodoo in the swamps, quickly becomes a suspect although there is no evidence to prove her guilt. Stoney has his own ideas about who murdered Sarah and he becomes obsessed with solving the crime. During one of South Carolina's worst heat waves, Stoney's suspicions draw the entire community, now paranoid with fear, into a dangerous investigation. Rice maintains a level of creepy suspense despite some awkward, overlong passages about sex and voodoo that sometimes lack credibility. Though the mystery is central to the plot, the identity and motive of the killer are not proven. But Rice's psychologically adept portrayal of a community suddenly forced to acknowledge evil, and her evocative use of atmospheric detail, make this an auspicious debut. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The murder of a prominent citizen of a small South Carolina town proves a cathartic experience for the previously tranquil community, forcing many of its residents to confront the underlying problems in their own lives. Chief among these are a young man recently returned in hopes of capturing the peace and happiness of childhood and his frustrated wife, estranged from him and the community by the move; and a black teacher, also returned to confront her past and search for her long-lost mother. Rice's lush prose skillfully evokes the humid, menacing atmosphere of the South Carolina low country but fails to develop fully the multiplicity of themes introduced (voodooism, disintegration of a marriage, sexual awakening, black-white relations), leaving the reader curiously uninvolved and wishing for further exploration.-- Cynthia Johnson Whealler, Cary Memorial Lib., Lexington, Mass. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.