Reviews of The Kingdoms of Savannah by George Dawes Green

The Kingdoms of Savannah

A Novel

by George Dawes Green

The Kingdoms of Savannah by George Dawes Green X
The Kingdoms of Savannah by George Dawes Green
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  • First Published:
    Jul 2022, 304 pages

    Oct 17, 2023, 304 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Tina Choi
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Book Summary

Savannah may appear to be "some town out of a fable," with its vine flowers, turreted mansions, and ghost tours that romanticize the city's history. But look deeper and you'll uncover secrets, past and present, that tell a more sinister tale. It's the story at the heart of George Dawes Green's chilling new novel, The Kingdoms of Savannah.

It begins quietly on a balmy Southern night as some locals gather at Bo Peep's, one of the town's favorite watering holes. Within an hour, however, a man will be murdered and his companion will be "disappeared." An unlikely detective, Morgana Musgrove, doyenne of Savannah society, is called upon to unravel the mystery of these crimes. Morgana is an imperious, demanding, and conniving woman, whose four grown children are weary of her schemes. But one by one she inveigles them into helping with her investigation, and soon the family uncovers some terrifying truths―truths that will rock Savannah's power structure to its core.

Moving from the homeless encampments that ring the city to the stately homes of Savannah's elite, Green's novel brilliantly depicts the underbelly of a city with a dark history and the strangely mesmerizing dysfunction of a complex family.


Ransom Musgrove has been summoned to the house of his youth, the Romanesque revival mansion from the 1880s that everyone calls the "Old Fort"—on account of the parapet and the grand turret and the gargoyles and all the ivied brickwork. As he comes up the walk he gets flashes from his boyhood. Under that pecan, first kiss with Debbie Gannon. Under the crepe myrtle, third base with Lu Ann Farris. Up in the brown turkey fig tree, wasn't there some death match with his big brother, David? He has a vague memory of David taunting him, of getting so mad he went for David's throat and forgot to hold on to the limb. He doesn't recall what happened next.

Then at the front steps he has one more memory.

Thirteen years old. Standing out here awaiting the carpool to school and daydreaming, when his mother appeared on the balcony. Although it was a bright, sunny morning, she was drunk. Clearly she'd been out partying the night before and hadn't been to bed yet....

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While some of the characters' traits seem implausible at times (Jaq single-handedly delivers feats of prowess without batting an eye; Ransom has been estranged from high society for years, but is able to jump back into the milieu without missing a beat), the historical facts the novel is based on ring true. Green alludes to Savannah's dark capitalism and the audacity of the City's current elite, as present as the gorgeous columnar architecture of the home where Morgana Musgrove still resides. Behind every beautiful building lies slave labor and blood. Behind every development Guzman and his cronies pursue lies the land's Native history. Yet there are also heroes, both dead and alive...continued

Full Review Members Only (762 words).

(Reviewed by Tina Choi).

Media Reviews

BookPage (starred review)
A masterful and multifaceted work: finely crafted mystery, thought-provoking social commentary and an indelible portrait of a complicated city.

New York Times
Southern Gothic without the bitter aftertaste. Green wants to hammer home that undergirding Savannah's beauty — all the flowers and fashion and conviviality — is unspeakable ugliness that must be given voice. If history is made up of crime stories, the author seems to be proposing, then why not a crime story to help rethink history?

Booklist (starred review)
This fascinating story takes readers from homeless encampments to elegant homes as Morgana and her children probe the doings of a strange, dysfunctional family and discover appalling injustices in the city's past. Based on historical events, Green's literary thriller will draw those who loved John Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
In his first novel in more than a decade, Edgar Award winner Green delivers a gripping and expertly researched Southern literary thriller...Most powerful is the novel's exploration of contemporary social issues like homelessness, privilege, and familial legacies built from slavery. Through masterful storytelling, Green turns the quaint and eclectic tourist town of Savannah into a character as conflicted and complex as the rest of the novel's ensemble. Green's novels may not come around often, but when they do, they hit hard and stay with you long after the end.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Deeply rooted in Savannah's at times horrific history, yet looking hopefully toward the future, this provocative page-turner is sure to enthrall a broad spectrum of readers. Green is writing at the top of his game.

Author Blurb Karin Slaughter, New York Times bestselling author
Compelling characters and vivid settings make this impressive Southern narrative stand out among the best. The Kingdoms of Savannah is not to be missed.

Author Blurb Neil Gaiman, author of American Gods
The Kingdoms of Savannah is a novel about a place and the people in that place that reads like a thriller but could only have been written by someone who knows Savannah and its stories intimately and wants them to be told. It's the apotheosis of Southern Gothic Noir.

Author Blurb Riley Sager, New York Times bestselling author of The House Across the Lake
A rich, sprawling, dazzling mystery that's also a journey into history—of a nation, of a city, and of one unforgettably dysfunctional family. I savored every page.

Reader Reviews

Arash Danaifar

Flannery knew. Flannery got out, what a fortunate young lady."
I was simply pondering Savvy Blood recently. Who among us can fail to remember Hazel Bits? Or on the other hand the delicate animal, Flannery O'Connor, who rejuvenated him? Morganna Musgrove, doyenne of Savannah society, could feel that Flannery got ...   Read More
J Jensen

Interesting peek into Southern culture
The story was a bit difficult to follow in the beginning, as I familiarized myself with the main characters. I enjoyed the mix of fact and fiction. The author did an excellent job of describing the generational and cultural nuances interwoven ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

General James Oglethorpe

Black-and-white portrait of General James Oglethorpe In The Kingdoms of Savannah, author George Dawes Green describes General James Oglethorpe as a "jewel of a man, a rare nonmonster in Savannah history." Indeed, Oglethorpe was unique in the context of 1700s British imperialism: a champion of the oppressed who fought against the powerful in issues ranging from prison abuse to slavery to the attempts made by the English to ban North American colonies' right to trade.

Oglethorpe was born in Yorkshire, England in 1696 and began his military career in 1717, fighting under Prince Eugene of Savoy in the Austro-Turkish War. He later attempted to participate in the Seven Years' War, but was denied a commission by the British, after which he ended up taking on a different name and fighting with...

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