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Master of the Delta Hardcover – June 2, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (June 2, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151012547
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151012541
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #250,861 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Edgar-winner Cook (Red Leaves) examines the slow collapse of a prominent Southern family in this magnificent tale of suspense set in 1954. Jack Branch, who's returned to his hometown of Lakeland, Miss., and taken a job at the same high school where his father once taught, is dismayed to learn that one of his students in his class on historical evil is the son of the town's infamous Coed Killer. Eddie Miller's father confessed to torturing and killing a local girl when Eddie was five, but died in jail before he could stand trial. Hoping to help Eddie step out of his father's shadow, Jack proposes that the boy write a research paper on the Coed Killer. Eddie is soon immersed in the project, which grows in scope until it encompasses the entire town's sordid past. When Jack's own father's history is brought into question, Jack realizes that he's started a fire he may be unable to control. Excerpts from transcripts of an old trial that slowly unfolds alongside Jack and Eddie's story heighten the drama. (June)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* Jack Branch, scion of a declining southern estate, comes home from college and, as an act of noblesse oblige, becomes a teacher at the public high school. His class, a classics-heavy exploration of the nature of evil, is over the heads of his students, so he kicks off each lecture with a sensational story from history. One student, Eddie Miller, has a sensational history of his own: his father was the locally notorious “Coed Killer.” Branch decides to mentor Eddie and, fatefully, encourages him to research his father’s crime. Readers who enjoy watching good deeds get punished will be spectacularly rewarded as Branch’s efforts go horribly awry—in large part because Branch isn’t the person he thought he was. The suspense builds slowly but inexorably, helped along with liberal doses of foreboding from Branch, the reminiscing narrator. And, in an ending with near-perfect resonance, we find that the story isn’t really whose we’ve thought it was, either. Cook, an Edgar winner, is known as a crime writer, but his storytelling has grown better and better as his works have become less formulaic. Master of the Delta is a novel about character that just happens to be about crime. --Keir Graff

More About the Author

THOMAS H. COOK was born in Fort Payne, Alabama, in 1947. He has been nominated for the Edgar Award seven times in five different categories. He received the best novel Edgar for The Chatham School Affair, the Martin Beck Award, the Herodotus Prize for best historical short story, and the Barry for best novel for Red Leaves, and has been nominated for numerous other awards.

Customer Reviews

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See all 25 customer reviews
A very well written story, holding the reader in a gripping mood of suspense throughout.
F. J. Masterman
Lush and musical, it's the perfect vehicle for his tales of buried sin and hidden guilt which often take place in the oldest and most haunted parts of our country.
JAMES AGNEW
Given the quality of writing, I might have responded a bit more favorably with fewer pages.
Luan Gaines

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By JAMES AGNEW on May 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The first element that always draws me into a Thomas H. Cook novel is his magnificent prose. Lush and musical, it's the perfect vehicle for his tales of buried sin and hidden guilt which often take place in the oldest and most haunted parts of our country.

Master of the Delta is Cook's latest work, and it's a very strong addition to a truly distinguished body of work. Set in a small town in the Mississippi delta in 1954, it's narrated by Jack Branch, the scion of an upper crust family, who, from a somewhat condescending sense of duty, has, like his father before him, become a teacher in the local public high school. Deeply interested in the question of evil in an academic way, he's soon to encounter it in actuality.

Jack learns that one of his more talented students, Eddie Miller, is the son of the notorious "Coed Killer," and encourages him to come to terms with his family's history by writing a paper on his father and his crimes. Eddie pursues his task diligently, and in so doing unearths old secrets that threaten the social order of the town.

But along with his great prose, arresting characters and evocative settings, Cook is a masterful plotter, and events in Master of the Delta unfold in intriguing ways, the book concluding with one of his trademark twists, at once completely unexpected and totally logical. With his complex prose and almost overwhelming sense of the tragic, Cook may not appeal to readers who like their mysteries light and inconsequential, but those who aren't afraid of the dark will appreciate his masterful handling of every literary element and savor Master of the Delta as I did.
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Format: Hardcover
The power of teaching is heady for Jack Branch, a privileged young man who grew up motherless on a plantation with his scholarly father. Missing his long-dead wife, the elder Branch has remained isolated at Great Oaks since "the incident", the result of a profound depression that has plagued the man for years. Returning after his pricey education to teach at Lakeland High School, Jack is following in his father's footsteps, returning to the landscape of his youth to share his vision with his unlucky students, limited by means and education. In fact, the class he is lecturing on evil in literature has little to recommend the future, most from poverty-riddled backgrounds, many from a rough area known as the Bridges, one lonely student, Eddie Miller, more profoundly separated from the rest by virtue of his history as the son of a local murderer, the Coed Killer.

Giving the students an assignment to write a paper on an evil person, Branch takes a special interest in the skinny, shy Eddie. Thinking to mentor Eddie in his progress, Branch becomes embroiled in a psychological drama that holds unseen dangers the more involved he becomes with the boy. Cook peoples his dark, gothic story with eccentrics: the elder Branch, surrounded by the former glory of his old life and an impressive library; the beautiful student, Sheila Longstreet, the object of her boyfriend's obsessive affection; the angry boyfriend's sidekick, a menacing shadow; Eddie Miller, the unfortunate son of the local murderer, a boy of few ambitions who appeals to his mentor, Branch, but later develops an independent spirit; and the well-intentioned, if class-conscious Jack Branch, who assigns only noble motives to himself until his baser nature is revealed.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Roy E. Perry on June 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Sinister forces are at work in a small Southern town as the fates spin, measure, and cut the threads of life, and well-intentioned schemes end in tragedy, in this mystery by Edgar Award-winning novelist Thomas Cook.

In an act of noblesse oblige, Jack Branch, a graduate of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, and scion of a plantation owner in the Mississippi Delta, returns to his hometown of Lakeland to teach at the local high-school.

In an English course exploring evil, Jack sees potential in Eddie Miller, a student who lives in a hardscrabble section of town. He takes Eddie, the son of "the Coed Killer" under his wings and becomes his mentor. As events unfold, however, we see that no good deed goes unpunished.

Meanwhile, Jack's wealthy father pens a biography of Abraham Lincoln, "Sorrow's Last Full Measure," and works on a roman a clef, kept under lock and key, containing startling secrets of the Branch family.

A romantic idealist, Jack himself becomes entangled in the coils of evil, for silence is not always golden; it can also be yellow, if one should speak up and fails to do so.

Clark's novel will appeal especially to the literary-minded, for he alludes often to authors classic and modern. But he doesn't hold back on the suspense, as readers will discover even in the books' closing paragraphs.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By StarDotStar on August 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Thomas H. Cook revisits familiar territory in Master of the Delta: The very first paragraph tells you this will be a tragedy of Greek melodramatic proportions. He does not disappoint. In this beautifully written novel, Cook again explores his well worn themes of family conflicts, lost love, tortured souls, misunderstanding with devastating outcomes, winding down to the appropriate somber ending. I especially liked his use of time changes and different voices troughout the story. The plot twist at the very end also took me by surprise. Some may find these themes excessively dark, but that is precisely why fans of Cook come back again and again for another dose. Nobody can put together a modern tragic/mystery like Thomas H. Cook.
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