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The Devil Amongst the Lawyers: A Ballad Novel

The Devil Amongst the Lawyers: A Ballad Novel

Написано Sharyn McCrumb

Озвучено Luke Daniels


The Devil Amongst the Lawyers: A Ballad Novel

Написано Sharyn McCrumb

Озвучено Luke Daniels

оценки:
3.5/5 (24 оценки)
Длина:
9 часов
Издатель:
Издано:
22 июн. 2010 г.
ISBN:
9781441867742
Формат:
Аудиокнига

Описание

In 1935, when Erma Morton, a beautiful young woman with a teaching degree, is charged with the murder of her father in a remote Virginia mountain community, the case becomes a cause célèbre for the national press.

Eager for a case to replace the Lindbergh trial in the public's imagination, the journalists descend on the mountain county intent on infusing their stories with quaint local color: horse-drawn buggies, rundown shacks, children in threadbare clothes. They need tales of rural poverty to give their Depression-era readers people whom they can feel superior to. The untruth of these cultural stereotypes did not deter the big-city reporters, but a local journalist, Carl Jennings, fresh out of college and covering his first major story, reports what he sees: an ordinary town and a defendant who is probably guilty.

This journey to a distant time and place summons up ghosts from the reporters' pasts: Henry Jernigan's sojourn in Japan that ended in tragedy, Shade Baker's hardscrabble childhood on the Iowa prairie, and Rose Hanelon's brittle sophistication, a shield for her hopeless love affair. While they spin their manufactured tales of squalor, Carl tries to discover the truth in the Morton trial with the help of his young cousin Nora, who has the Sight. But who will believe a local cub reporter whose stories contradict the nation's star journalists? For the listener, the novel resonates with the present: an economic depression, a deadly flu epidemic, a world contending with the rise of political fanatics, and a media culture determined to turn news stories into soap operas for the diversion of the masses.
Издатель:
Издано:
22 июн. 2010 г.
ISBN:
9781441867742
Формат:
Аудиокнига

Об авторе

Sharyn McCrumb is the New York Times bestselling author of the acclaimed Ballad novels. She has received numerous honors for her work, including the Mary Frances Hobson Prize for Southern Literature, the AWA Book of the Year, and Notable Books in both The New York Times and Los Angeles Times. She was also named a Virginia Woman of History for Achievement in Literature. She lives and writes in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, fewer than one hundred miles from where her family settled in 1790.


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  • (2/5)
    By far, the worst out of the series.

    I think the McCrumb really lost something by deciding to stick with a single plot line. This book only follows the story of a young woman accused (maybe wrongfully, maybe not) of murder. In short, it's a re-hash of The Ballad of Frankie Silver, set around a hundred years later. However, instead of focusing on the sheriff and lawyers in the case, it tells the story through the newspaper men. There's the national reporters who have the story including vivid descriptions of the town mostly written before ever setting foot in the state and the more local reporter who is willing to try to see things as they are or might be.

    I'm reminded of a recent (within the last 30-40 yrs, though I don't remember when exactly) documentary of an Appalachian community, where the videographers never took any footage in the towns but just documented the poverty of a couple of families in the country. The film was highly criticized because it only showed one side of the story - just the poor and ignored the vast majority that did have running water and electricity.

    There's no question that the media can be heavily biased -- redneck jokes seems to be one of the few remaining types you can tell on TV without having to stammer an apology later. But, you know, I get it. I really do.

    I got it when the reporters wrote their descriptions of the town before they arrived. I got it when they were using a novel set 50 yrs previous as "research material." I got it when they left town and went out to the country to try to find a dilapidated home to photograph to show how the area looked. 300 pages of preaching the exact same lecture over and over again with the same cast of characters is way too much. And there's no modern plot line to follow along the historical. We're stuck with the same obnoxious reporters for the whole book.

    So, you have a repetitive plot line (2nd version of Frankie Silver) combined with repetitive lecturing. Sigh.

    I'm very disappointed in this book - and after 2 books in a row with little or no modern component, I'm hoping McCrumb finds the balance between the modern and historical worlds in the next book about Tom Dooley.
  • (3/5)
    Based on a real-life murder and trial, this book's portrayal of the event, setting and characters, took an odd direction, with locals pitted against journalists in their ideas about what really happened. Still, I enjoyed this book of historical fiction for its atmosphere and interesting story.
  • (2/5)
    Oh how I wish I could have given this book more stars! I really couldn't wait to get it and read it, even paid for a signed copy and sorry to say very disappointed... The story was somewhat interesting but the whole book never really took me anywhere or gave me anything to look forward to. I hope it's not the last ballad novel.
  • (3/5)
    This one just didn't work for me. The story of a murder trial of an Appalachian girl arrested for killing her father. That story showed promise, but it seemed to be mostly a chance for the writer to editorialize about journalism and their search for an angle to every story, never mind the truth, and how the poor are victimized by Big City Journalists. Plus, what was that whole Japan subplot about? That had nothing at all to do with the story. I almost didn't finish it, but I felt I needed to give it a chance. If you want to read a really good book on the same subject, check out Scoop by Evelyn Waugh.
  • (4/5)
    Sharon McCrumb takes an actual event and creates a retelling of the event. In this case, Sharon recreates the 1935 murder trial of a young woman in Wise County, Virginia. Sharon McCrumb weaves a tale with complicated stitches enhancing the beauty of the work. The book begins with a prologue set in 1916, about a circus elephant and the power of a newspaper. That theme, the power of the written word of a newspaper, dominates the novel. Nora Bonesteel, a constant figure in McCrumb's books, appears in this novel as a reminder that destiny cannot be altered. McCrumb's imagery in setting and characters is supurb. In this tale, she contrasts the city folk(newspaper people) and the simple mountain folk, and explores stereotypes of these two groups, as well as comparing the two lifestyles. The story exposes the feelings and beliefs of the characters in a way that the reader feels kinship to the characters. In conclusion, Sharon McCrumb utilizes her skills as a mountain storyteller to lure the reader into the book.
  • (3/5)
    As this novel is set when Nora Bonesteel was 13 it could be read at any time in her Ballad series. Nora's cousin Carl is a reporter on a small newspaper and is asked to cover the sensational case of the death of the father of a young, beautiful girl. Because of the circumstances the big papers also send their reporters and we quickly learn they've decided how they're going to spin the story even before they get to town. This story is less about Nora than it is about reporters, the media and how what they say and how they say it has a huge effect on their readers.
  • (1/5)
    Sharyn McCrumb writes books set in her native Appalachians that are almost all evocative of both place and time. She's got two series going - the Elizabeth MacPherson novels (Appalachian cop books, basically), and the Ballad series. I'm fond of all of her books, particularly the Ballad series which are historical fiction based on Appalachian ballads. I like her books a lot and was pleased to find a new one.Unfortunately, this one is unreadable. I got about 100 pages again before I gave it up. The primary problem with this book is that its author quite obviously loathes most of the characters she's writing about. She's grinding a hard ax here about the media's poor treatment of the Appalachians and her people and I'm sympathetic to her feelings, but I can't care about characters that the author loathes. I don't have to like everyone, but something has to engage me and there's just too much bias here for me to be engaged. Disappointing.
  • (4/5)
    I should start this review with I have never read a Ballard novel before. I have read Sharyn McCrumb's Bimbos of the Death Sun and Highland Laddie Gone which I enjoyed and were very funny.I also enjoyed this book but for different reasons. This book was set during the Depression and introduces one of the Ballard Novel's main characters: Nora Bonesteel as a young girl just beginning to deal with using her gift "the Sight" for an actual purpose.Her favorite cousin Carl needs her help to write stories on the trial of Erma Morton. Did she murder her father? (This story is based on a real story) Will "the Sight" help Carl is only one of the questions of this book. The big question is how tabloid journalism of the 30's which may resemble our own tabloid journalism can find the truth in this murder trial. This is shown as the other main characters-tabloid journalists come for the trial in small town Appalachia. Do they even care about the truth is a question that reverberates into our time.The only slight issue I have is a side story about one of the journalists and his time in Japan which feels like it should be in another story though it does go to show that these journalists are not so concerned with the job at hand but their lives and their comfort.McCrumb's descriptive ability really makes the reader feel the beauty and harshness of the climate and time period. This book has inspired me to want to read the other Ballad novels and I did enjoy it.
  • (3/5)
    I too could hardly wait for this book to come out because I love the "Ballad Series" so much, but this book was totally different than the previous ones. It is set in Tennessee and Virginia in the 1930's. Gangsters are huge in America at this time, and prohibition has recently been lifted. The mode of travel was the train, and reporters from all sizes of newspapers are riding those trains in search of the next big story. And Nora Bonesteel is a young girl of 12 in this book, but she is a little girl that already has the sight. This book occurs when a man in a remote Virginia community appears to have been killed by his young and beautiful daughter. She has been arrested and the whole country wants news about this big case so reporters descend on this tiny town in search of the "dirt" on Erma Morton. The reporters all bring their own mental baggage and preconceived notions with them, and the story unfolds as the trial progresses. I found i had great difficulty to keep my myself motivated to read the book. There is no mystery really and the crime is very far removed from the story. I didn't really enjoy this book, but, as always, Ms. McCrumb is an excellent author and her characters are very realistic, so that got me through.
  • (2/5)
    This long-awaited addition to the "Ballad" series disappoints. About halfway through the book I stopped wondering when the introduction would end and the real story would begin...I realized this book is not about the actual events on which it's based, but more about the unsavory journalists congregating for the trial. No one is likeable; no character elicits sympathy admiration, or even strong enough dislike to be interesting. Was a young Nora Bonesteel inserted in the story just to lure her fans?I rarely fail to finish reading a book, once started, especially one such as this, written by a favorite author. I confess I would have cast it aside had I not made a commitment to write this review. Finishing it was more an assignment than a pleasure.
  • (3/5)
    Sharyn McCrumb's new Ballad novel is a precursor to the previous volumes. In a small town in Appalachian Virginia, a pretty young teacher is accused of murdering her father. Carl Jennings, earnest young local reporter, is eager to find out the truth of the story. Apparently, he's the only person who is, as all the other major characters pursue their own agendas without much apparent interest in the truth.Three "big city" reporters arrive to cover the trial and make it clear that they are more interested in a titillating fulfillment, and even manipulation, of their readers' prejudices than in what might have happened. They've made up their minds about how they'll portray the story to achieve the greatest effect. The defendant's brother makes a deal with a newspaper syndicate that the family will speak only with its members, meaning that seekers after truth such as young Carl lack access to the most direct sources of truth. As the story progresses, we see Carl in trouble because his attempts at honest journalism fail to deliver the pizzazz and excitement of the prejudicial pieces fabricated by the jaded journalists from the big city. Carl manages to get his cousin Nora Bonesteel invited to town to help the innkeeper with whom he is staying. Just twelve, Nora has "the Sight," a preternatural percipience, and Carl hopes that she will be able to help him see the truth of what is happening. Nora is a familiar character to fans of these novels, and it is mildly interesting to see her at this age, but McCrumb does nothing in particular with her gifts, except perhaps to show their limitations. Since Nora is one of the oldest characters in the other Ballad novels, and is probably the youngest named character in this one, there is no other overlap of characters.One of the reporters, Henry Jernigan, has a mysterious pastin Japan, which has left him with the occasional mystical "company" of a young Japanese woman who died. This subplot is briefly fascinating--is McCrumb showing us a different culture's version of paranormal events?--but she fails to integrate it with the larger story. While it makes Henry a more interesting fellow, it does not add to our experience of the main story.One can try to read the novel as a meditation on the nature of truth and our relationship to it. She shows how different characters interact with the idea of the truth based on their own agendas: Carl seeks it earnestly, Erma hides it, her brother profits by controlling access to it, Henry and Rose disregard it, Nora cannot conjure it up, the jury do not see it.This could have yielded a better novel if McCrumb did not seem so focused on her "cause" of exposing journalists as indifferent to the truth.In contrast to the earlier Ballad novels, McCrumb seems to be presenting the view of Appalachia held by jaded, prejudiced outsiders, and contrasting it with the reality of the beauty of the area and its residents' lives. Her approach is surprisingly heavy-handed and lacking in subtlety. The ballad permeating this novel is the abrasive whine of an ax being ground, and that sound not only makes it difficult to enjoy the story, it calls into question McCrumb's own attitude toward truth.
  • (3/5)
    Sharyn McCrumb’s new book The Devil Amongst the Lawyers is described as a new novel in her Ballad series. While the book is set in Appalachia and includes the appearance of a teenaged Nora Bonesteel, there is little else in common with the other Ballad books. The main characters of the book are all journalists who converge on a small Appalachian town to cover the trial of a beautiful young woman accused of murdering her father. The big-city journalists work to make the story of the trial fit into their prejudices and misconceptions about Appalachia, while the one local reporter (a relative of Nora, hence her involvement) tries to tell the facts about the trial and is accused of being boring. While I did enjoy this story, the continual emphasis of the behavior of the big-city journalists became repetitive, and I didn’t care for this book as much as the others in the Ballad series.
  • (4/5)
    This fictional retelling of a notorious murder case from 1930s Appalachia is not a mystery in the traditional sense, but more of a character study. It connects to McCrumb's Ballad series by the character of Nora Bonesteel, 12-years-old here, who plays a minor role.The story is mostly from the point of view of the various reporters in town from the trial. The readers do learn (McCrumb's take on) the truth of the matter, but the other characters never do. It hardly seems to matter to most of them; the big-city reporters, at pains to make the local people look ridiculous, certainly don't care.Slow-moving but ultimately satisfying.
  • (5/5)
    I so happy to see Sharyn McCrumb return to the Ballad novels even though Nora Bonesteel plays a small role in this one as a 12 year old girl. The story appeals to me as a former journalist since it is about a murder trial in a small Virginia town in the Appalachians which is covered by several NYC reporters, and how their coverage differs from that of a mountain bred rookie for an East Tennessee paper. (Thought that sentence would never end, didn't you?)These big city reporters write a story of a schoolteacher who is accused of killing her own father. They say it was because she's' college educated and therefore too big for her britches so to speak, so when her father gets after her for coming home after curfew, she kills him. They picture womenfolk in poke bonnets sitting on the porch of a shack and barefoot, dirty children playing out front. Dumb bunch of hicks, in other words.The trial actually happened in 1935, by the way, but the town was just small town America and the people quite ordinary. Of course they resented how they were depicted and the superior attitude of the reporters. The truth of the murder is easy to figure out, but that isn't really important to enjoyment of this fine novel. I highly recommend this to Sharyn McCrumb fans, and if you aren't a fan, why not?
  • (4/5)
    In her long-awaited new Ballad novel, Sharyn McCrumb returns to the setting she’s made her own, the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains, in a Depression-era tale of murder, the media, and the dangers of regional stereotyping. Neither a traditional mystery nor a tense courtroom drama, as one might expect from the bare-bones storyline, it fits best as a finely wrought character study with an impeccable sense of place.In November of 1935, journalists from across the eastern seaboard converge on the small coal town of Wise in southwestern Virginia to report on what could be the crime of the century. A beautiful schoolteacher named Erma Morton, accused of murdering her father, awaits trial in the county jail. The evidence is circumstantial, and the motive (an argument about a missed curfew) seems unlikely, yet she hasn’t kept her story straight.Jaded New York journalists, skilled at transforming tragedies into dishy fodder for the masses, know the approach they’ll take before their train even arrives. Veteran reporter Henry Jernigan, who suffers from PTSD after horrors he experienced as a young man in Japan, seeks a way to depict Erma, his ideal of an innocent victim, as a classic literary heroine. While he and Rose Hanelon, a writer of “sob sister” pieces, churn out the lurid stories their readers demand, tubercular photographer Shade Baker charms the locals and searches for the perfect scenic backdrop for a tale of ignorant hill folk and backwoods justice gone wrong.Only Carl Jennings, a cub reporter from Tennessee on his first big assignment, steers a neutral course, and he does so despite his suspicions. Because they're long on fact and short on spin, his boss isn't happy with his efforts. Seeking clarity, Carl finds a way to invite his young cousin Nora Bonesteel to Wise. Although she can’t control what she sees or when, twelve-year-old Nora has the “Sight,” and her skills could come in handy in his attempts to capture the truth.In her fictional recounting of the trial of Edith Maxwell, the real-life woman upon whom Erma Morton is based, McCrumb has an agenda as well – a valid one, to be sure, but perhaps one too important to risk in a subtler approach. In the prologue, Carl first learns about the techniques used by the media to manipulate the results they want, and this theme echoes repeatedly through the pages. Unfortunately, this keeps readers from one of the rewards they expect from fiction: gaining these leaps of insight on their own.In its other aspects and themes, however, the novel shines. While most of the other titles in her Ballad series depict Appalachian mountain life from the inside, The Devil Amongst the Lawyers shows an outlander’s perspective on its landmarks and people, and McCrumb cleverly reveals how the reality contrasts with the stereotype. Decrepit shacks and uneducated yokums are no more common here than they are anywhere else. Although the residents speak with country accents and keep pretty much to themselves, the truth is that, as prairie native Shade Baker puts it, “everybody lives in a little place,” and there’s less difference between city and country folk than city folk want to believe.As always, the beautiful mountain setting – the dark hills standing bleak and barren on these cold November days – takes center stage. The Depression-era details feel real, and even the minor characters have interesting back stories that define them and set them apart from one another. It’s a pleasure seeing a younger Nora, the wise woman who’s become a beloved series character, as a young girl discovering the advantages and limitations of her gift. Best of all, McCrumb tells a wonderful story. The pacing never flags over its 300-plus pages, and her narrative voice rings clear, strong, and true.
  • (3/5)
    In this return to her Ballad series, Sharyn McCrumb chooses to fictionalize a 1935 murder trial in southwest Virginia. The defendant is a young beautiful teacher accused of murdering her father. The trial is receiving national attention because her brother has "sold the rights" to a New York newspaper. The national papers are putting their own slant on the story, but young reporter Carl Jenkins of Johnson City has his first break as a reporter and is chosen to cover the story, primarily because he has relatives in the Wise, Virginia area. He calls on his 12-year-old cousin Nora Bonesteel to come help his relative running the boarding house, primarily so he can take advantage of her gift of "The Sight." While the story line was interesting, it was fairly predictable. This is more of a rant on how journalists distort and fabricate the news to suit their own purposes than anything else. There are several themes introduced in the novel which have absolutely no effect on the outcome of the trial. I'm not sure they belong in this book, but some of them might have resulted in a good book on their own with proper development. It would be interesting to read the transcripts of the actual trial to see how it compares with this fictionalized account. This review is based on an advanced review copy received through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program with the expectation that a review would be written.
  • (5/5)
    First Line: He had been there that day, all right.Although I am a firm believer in the author's right to publish what they wish, I do want to be on record as saying that seven years is entirely too long to wait for a new Ballad novel. McCrumb's lyrical novels are love stories about the people and the places of Appalachia, and I have been enlightened and entertained with each one.This eighth Ballad novel is based upon the 1935 trial of a young schoolteacher accused of murdering her father. The trial became a sensation, and newspapers all over the country latched onto it to boost sales.As The Devil Amongst the Lawyers begins, the murder of crows is already winging its way to a small county in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. The chief crows in this case are newspaper reporters Henry Jernigan, Rose Hanelon, Luster Swann, and photographer Shade Baker. None of them have been to Appalachia before, but (with the logical exception of Shade) all of them have finished writing their first articles to be sent back to their respective newspapers. You see, you don't have to be in a place to know what it's like.On a separate train is a young reporter from Johnson City, Tennessee: Carl Jennings. Jennings proceeds to investigate, to talk to people, and to send back truthful reports to his newspaper. As the days progress, Jennings is in hot water. His truthful reports have no resemblance whatsoever to the articles sent in by the New York City journalists, and his bosses wonder if he's really on location. In desperation, he asks the parents of his thirteen-year-old cousin, Nora Bonesteel, if Nora can come to help their cousin who's busy running a boarding house in town. Jennings is hoping that Nora's gift of the Sight will give him the edge in the journalistic competition.If you've read previous Ballad novels and open this book with a set of preconceived expectations, you may very well be disappointed. Although it is wonderful to see Nora Bonesteel as a teenager, she has very little to do with the action. The mystery itself, even though it is interesting, doesn't have much meat on its bones.The major impetus of this book is its cautionary tale about journalism and its power to distort and mislead. (Not that anything like this would ever happen today. Heavens, no!) All the New York-based characters of the Fourth Estate did not go to their destination with open minds. They all had preconceived ideas of what Appalachia was really like, and even though they could see they were wrong upon arrival, they all knew the truth would not sell papers. As Rose Hanelon frequently said by way of excusing her and her companions' shoddy journalism, it really didn't matter what they said because two days later all the papers would be at the bottoms of bird cages.Few writers have McCrumb's sheer talent with language and dialogue to immerse readers into a particular place and time. Throughout this book, I felt as though I were walking the streets of a small town in the Appalachia of 1935. I was listening to the condescending voices of the New York City reporters, and watching the guarded, distrustful looks of the townspeople.As the trial gains notoriety , it becomes less and less a matter of a young woman's innocence or guilt, and more and more a matter of what everyone else can gain at her expense. It is a strong, compelling tale with fascinating characters and a wonderful sense of place. It's not the typical Ballad novel that McCrumb's fans have come to love and expect, but that didn't prevent me from enjoying every page.
  • (4/5)
    "The Devil Amongst the Lawyers" marks Sharyn McCrumb's return to her popular Appalachian Ballad series, the books featuring Nora Bonesteel, one of several members of the Bonesteel familygifted with "the Sight." Fans of the series have had to wait longer than usual for the next Ballad novel because McCrumb's last several books have been set in the world of NASCAR, not a setting that appeals to everyone, me included. Can it really have been eight years? Anyway, it is nice finally to have a new Sharyn McCrumb novel for the rest of us.This one, though, is a little different from earlier books in the series. It is based on a real life 1935 murder trial that took place in Wise County, Virginia, a case that seemed perfectly cast to help big city newspapers turn a nice profit on the crime. A young woman, a pretty schoolteacher who had escaped the hills long enough to earn a college degree, is accused of having bludgeoned her father to death. Now, major East Coast newspapers have sent reporters to little Wise County to milk the story for all it might be worth to them.Among the reporters in town to cover Emma Morton's trial is Carl Jenkins, cousin to 12-year-old Nora Bonesteel, who is nervously working the first big story of his budding newspaper reporter career. Jenkins, though, is overwhelmed by the approach that his big city reporter heroes are taking to the story. What they are writing about Emma Morton, her family, and life in Wise County only vaguely resembles the truth as Jenkins sees it. Consequently, what Jenkins writes for his own newspaper is so different from what is appearing in the big papers that his own editors begin to wonder if he is really in Wise County at all.Jenkins, desperately looking for an angle he can exploit well enough to save his job, and hoping that young Nora's second sight can discover the truth about the murder, asks her to come to Wise County to speak with the accused killer. Therein, lies much of the fun of "The Devil Amongst the Lawyers." Longtime readers of the series will delight in meeting Nora Bonesteel before she became the wise old lady they are already know so well."The Devil Amongst the Lawyers" surprisingly focuses more on the reporters in town to cover the trial than it does on the accused or her victim. McCrumb's main theme, in fact, is that big city reporters (even in 1935) have preconceived notions about small town Southern life and those who live it - and that they will not let facts change their minds. The book's three main characters are New York City reporters, two writers and a photographer, who know the story they will present even before they get to town for the trial. Because the accused is pretty, they will portray her as sweet young woman being persecuted by locals who believe she has grown too uppity for her own good. To sell this version, they will use various writing "tricks," all explained in detail by McCrumb, and will present life and attitudes in Wise County more as if the trial were taking place in 1885 than in 1935.The whole premise would have worked much better if McCrumb had not been so heavy handed in making her point. Over and over again, she has various characters explain how the truth is being ignored or manipulated by the big city reporters to their own benefit - truth be damned. A little subtlety would have gone a long way in making readers feel that McCrumb had faith in their ability to "get it" without all her extra help. I am, however, so pleased to have a new Ballad novel that I will forgive that little insult. Fans of the series are likely to enjoy this one and hope they do not have to wait so long for the next one.Rated at: 4.0
  • (3/5)
    Sharyn McCrumb's latest Ballad novel is a sort of prequel for the series. In earlier series novels, Nora Bonesteel is an older woman whose gift of The Sight often helps to steer Sheriff Spencer Arrowood to the solution of a crime. In The Devil Amongst the Lawyers, readers learn that Nora's assistance in investigating a crime was sought long before Sheriff Arrowood's birth. In the midst of the Depression, Nora's cousin, Carl Jenkins, has the opportunity of his young life. His Johnson City newspaper sends him to cover a sensational murder trial in the small Southwest Virginia town of Wise. Sensing that he may be in over his head, Carl calls on 12-year-old Nora to use her sixth sense to help him sort out truth from fiction in the gossip surrounding the trial.One of the strongest appeals of the Ballad Novels for me is their Upper East Tennessee/Southwest Virginia setting. I like reading about familiar places, and Sharyn McCrumb excels at portraying place and people accurately and sympathetically. The local characters and settings work well in this book, but I can't say the same for the outsiders -- the journalists sent by national papers to cover the trial. The purpose of these characters seems to be to depict the source of the stereotypes of the Appalachian region and people. Ironically, these journalists themselves seem more like stereotypes than real characters. When these characters are alone with their thoughts they seem more like real people, but the group scenes and their conversations among themselves fall flat. The journalists talk too much about the story being more important than the truth. I think a subtler approach would have made the point more effectively.This novel is fictionalized account of a real murder trial in Wise County, Virginia, in 1935. The trial and defendant are often overshadowed by sub-plots and other characters, so true crime readers may prefer to read the non-fiction account of the trial. Fans of the Ballad Novels won't want to miss seeing Nora Bonesteel as a child. I'd suggest that readers new to the series get to know Nora first in one of the books published earlier in the series.This review is based on an advanced readers' copy provided by the publisher through the Early Reviewers program.
  • (3/5)
    For those of us who love books and their authors, it is a sad moment when we realize that a favorite author is no longer writing the books that we love. Such was the case for me with Sharon McCrumb's continuation of her bestselling Appalachian Ballad Series, `The Devil Amongst the Lawyers.' In 1935 Erma Morton is accused of murdering her father. That Erma is young and attractive adds fuel to the resultant sensation. Out-of-town reporters converge on the small Virginia town with their stories already outlined in their heads. All they need are a few local color details and the story (as dictated by their editors) will write itself. Is Erma innocent or guilty? Only the young local reporter assigned to the story, Carl Jenkins, seems willing to ferret out the answer. McCrumb's novel is based on a true event. And perhaps that fact provides the limitations that haunt her story. Because this is no `magical' McCrumb narrative peopled by intriguing Appalachian figures. Despite the limited appearance of Nora Bonesteel, McCrumb's most charismatic character, the novel remains gray and lifeless. It is difficult to want to read a book when the major characters are unappealing and unlikable. Three stars: "The Devil Amongst the Lawyers' may well have appeal for those interested in Appalachian history. McCrumb respects her historical sources and handles her facts well. But those looking for the magic of McCrumb`s prose in `She Walks These Hills' must look elsewhere.
  • (5/5)
    At first glance, the 8th book in Sharyn McCrumb’s award winning Ballad Series does not seem to belong with the others. For starters, the story takes place in depression-era Virginia rather than contemporary Tennessee, as do the rest of the books in the series. Furthermore, only one character from the series, seer-woman Nora Bonesteel, makes an appearance.Nevertheless, there is much in this book to remind those of us who have come to love the series just what it is that is so appealing about it. The most obvious is the title. Each of the Ballad Series books is named for a folksong common to the Appalachian Mountains in which the books take place. ‘The Devil Amongst the Lawyers’, (AKA ‘Devil’s Dream’), is an old Scots Irish fiddle tune well known in bluegrass circles. More important to readers, though, is McCrumb’s incredible ability to tell a story, be it historical or fiction. In most of her books she flips back and forth between two mysteries, one past and one present. The former is often McCrumb’s retelling of actual events that occurred in the region’s past. This time, though, she chooses to stay in the past for several reasons. One is that we get the chance to see Nora Bonesteel as a young woman when she is first coming to terms with ‘the Sight’ a family trait that makes her one of the most fascinating characters in contemporary American mysteries. It would be so easy for McCrumb to take a character that has premonitions and use her as a deus ex machina devise to solve the mystery, but fortunately she doesn’t do that. Instead, she lets Nora Bonesteel serve as a window to the soul of Appalachia that few outsiders bother to look through.This brings us to the next reason McCrumb chose keep this book set entirely in 1935. A key element of all the Ballad Series books is McCrumb’s love for and treatment of Appalachia. By choosing the media circus atmosphere of a murder trial set in backwoods western Virginia, she can show us the dichotomy between Appalachia as most people perceive it and as it really is. To show us the former, McCrumb tells the story largely through the eyes of ‘big city reporters’ who swoop into a small town for a murder trial, writing their descriptions of the area before their train even arrives. Their interest is not in giving a realistic portrayal of the area but in showing readers what they already expect to see. If readers expect shacks and homespun wisdom, then that’s what they would get. On the flipside we have Carl Jenkins, a cub reporter from Tennessee and cousin of Nora. While he is thrilled to get the chance to work with the most famous journalists of the day, his approach to getting and telling the story is quite different. He’s more likely to be seen sitting around a stove sharing a bottle of bourbon with the town’s elders and quietly listening to what they have to say. By coincidence, this is a book about expectations that differed from what I expected. In the end, though, I enjoyed it, even if it wasn’t what I expected. I highly recommend this addition to my favorite series of Sharyn McCrumb’s mysteries.