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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 the potential of the human heart to hate–and, ultimately, to heal.
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.
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Less a mystery than a finely crafted, poetic meditation on justice, race, love, and hate in a small Virginia town, Robbins's intense though occasionally overwrought novel compounds one tragedy--the birth and death of an infant--with another. In the smoking ruins of a church whose deacons demanded that Clare and Elijah Waddell's baby be disinterred and reburied elsewhere because of her mixed-race parentage, the discovery of the charred body of the teenage daughter of the powerful local sheriff turns a case of arson into one of murder, and possibly rape as well. When Roanoke lawyer Nat Deeds is assigned to defend Elijah, he knows he faces a lawyer's worst nightmare: a truly innocent man.
Returning to the home town he left after learning of his wife's infidelity, Nat encounters a community that seems turned against him, except for his closest boyhood friend, now the charismatic pastor of destroyed Victory Baptist church. Pastor Tom Derby is a man with a secret, a man whose efforts to conquer his own demons fuel the flames of the town's hidden rage and hatred. These forces drive this atmospheric and involving read to its denouement. Scorched Earth is a novel that will appeal to readers who ordinarily eschew the mystery genre as well as to fans of legal thrillers--Scott Turow's admirers would do well to try it while they wait for his next one. --Jane AdamsFrom the Back Cover:
Praise for SCORCHED EARTH
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.
-Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Praise for the Novels of David L. Robbins'
THE END OF WAR
“Powerful . . . compelling.”
–The Washington Post
“Robbins is an accomplished storyteller.”
–The Denver Post
“Brilliant storytelling by an author . . . in absolute control of his material.”
–Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“A pitch-perfect blend of fiction and history.”
–The Plain Dealer
“A first-rate tale of war . . . thoughtful, gritty, and compulsively readable.”
WAR OF THE RATS
“Compelling and graphic . . . a good candidate for the thriller of the summer.”
–The New York Times
“A great novel of one of the epic battles of all time.”
“Breakneck-fast and laced with real-life vignettes.”
“White-knuckle tension . . . immensely exciting and terribly authentic.”
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Book Description Bantam, 2002. hardcover. Condition: New. 2002 NY: Bantam First edition, first printing, new/unread in flawless dust jacket. Seller Inventory # ROBSCOR11
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Book Description Bantam, 2002. Hardcover. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # DADAX0553801767