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Summary and book reviews of Scorched Earth by David Robbins

Scorched Earth

by David L. Robbins

Scorched Earth
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2002, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2003, 352 pages

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Book Summary

A novel of searing intensity and uncompromising vision. Part mystery, part legal thriller - set in a small southern town during one brutal, hot, and unforgiving summer that lays bare the potential of the human heart to hate and, ultimately, to heal.

From David L. Robbins, bestselling author of The End of War and War of the Rats, comes a novel of searing intensity and uncompromising vision. Part mystery, part legal thriller, it is a story of crime and punishment set in a small southern town during one brutal, hot, and unforgiving summer that lays bare thepotential of the human heart to hate–and, ultimately, to heal.

Scorched Earth

The inhabitants of Good Hope, Virginia, haven't felt the cooling effects of rain in weeks. The crops are withering. The ground is parched. There is no relief in sight. With the town a tinderbox waiting to explode, all it takes is a spark to ignite all the prejudice, the rage, and the secrets that are so carefully kept hidden. And then, in the midst of the terrible heat, a tragedy occurs. A baby is born and dies in her mother's arms. The child, Nora Carol, is buried quickly and quietly the next day in a church graveyard. It should have ended right there–but it didn't, for Nora Carol is of mixed race.

The white deacons of Good Hope's Victory Baptist Church, trying to protect the centuries-old traditions of their cemetery, have the body exhumed. That night the church is set ablaze, and the sole witness is the only suspect–Elijah Waddell, Nora Carol's father.

Nat Deeds, a former prosecutor and an exile of Good Hope, is pressed into service as Elijah's attorney. With a politically savvy prosecutor and a vindictive sheriff aligned against him, Nat knows it will be nearly impossible to get Elijah acquitted. But Elijah refuses to accept a plea.

As the evidence mounts, Nat begins to suspect there is something his client isn't telling him, and the next revelation turns Good Hope into a powder keg: a body is found in the ashes of the church. Now Elijah is accused of murder, and the case is no longer a matter of winning or losing, but of life or death.

The only way Nat can save his client is to scratch and claw for any shred of evidence, even if he has to bend the law to find it. As the summer heat intensifies and passions reach their boiling point, Nat must navigate through the incendiary secrets kept by friends and neighbors, by the guilty and the innocent, to an act of justice that has nothing to do with the law.

One

The place where they lie making the child is beautiful. They lie on a bed of ferns, which like a cushion of feathers tickles them. Only a few strides off the old dirt road, they are beneath a tall red oak, thick as a chimney, bearded with gray bark; the tree is a gentle old presence. The leaves of the oak bear the first blush of whistling autumn.

If they were to stand on that spot they could see the fields. South lie forty acres of beans, leafy and ripe for the harvest machinery resting now after church on this Sunday afternoon. High pines and turning sugar maples make this field a green leafy loch where every breeze riffles. North of the road, beyond barbed wire and honeysuckle, is a cleared pasture for the cows, which are out of sight behind hills that rise and roll down, suggesting by their smooth undulation the couple lying under the oak.

He is a black man, blacker than ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews
Kirkus Reviews

Robbins (The End of the War, 2000, etc.) is an able storyteller, but this time out the overactive plot twists away from him.

Library Journal

After the outsized War of the Rats, a tragedy that is more personal but just as weighty; white parishioners in a small Virginia town demand that the body of a mixed-race baby be exhumed from their graveyard.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Intricately plotted, insightful and deeply affecting, this novel by the author of the bestselling The End of War probes the malignancy of racial prejudice among the self-righteous citizens of a tightly knit Southern blue-collar town.

Reader Reviews
Mike

<<The following review was edited for plot spoilers>>

Ok... I really enjoyed this book. I thought the plot clever and thought provoking. But I have a problem with the ending. I felt that <<edited>> was a nice twist and a good ...   Read More

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