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North: A Novel Paperback – April 25, 2006


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With a particular sense of landscape and of the rhythms of rural life, Busch (A Memory of War, etc.) once again maps out his home territory, upstate New York, in this hybrid of a somber literary novel and hard-boiled detective story. This follow-up to his 1997 novel, Girls, centers on Jack, an emotionally scarred security guard, who meets a woman on the Carolina coast and agrees to search for her missing ne'er-do-well nephew. The young man has conveniently disappeared in Vienna, N.Y., the very site of Jack's former troubles. Jack follows the trail upstate, where encounters with a dope farmer and a parasitic, sexually voracious reporter ensue. Constant flashbacks to the events of Girls—Jack's divorce, the death of his child and the search for another missing girl—are meant to up the emotional ante, but instead mire what should be a page-turner in the past. And while Busch combines the conventions of prurient sex and graphic violence with accomplished description and characterization, he sacrifices suspense and pacing in the process of straddling two genres. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Bookmarks Magazine

The Washington Post notes that "Dashiell Hammett’s fingerprints are easy to spot" in Busch’s latest effort. The author knows how to stylize dialogue, pace a scene, unfold a story, and, of course, introduce the treacherous woman—and make it all seem familiar and surprising at the same time. The tortured Jack, "part hard-boiled detective and part tragic hero," (Washington Post) captivated all critics’ imaginations with his introspective meditation on his own life. After all, in order to save a life he must relive his past. But can returning to the scene of past crimes offer salvation? North is not as suspenseful as you might hope, but it seems that’s not the point.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (April 25, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345486838
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345486837
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.3 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,600,340 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jon Linden VINE VOICE on May 19, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Once again Mr. Busch is in wonderful form in the detective/mystery genre. His approach to his stories is very intimate; visceral, yet incisive; evocative, and deeply psychological. The book develops the character of the protagonist Jack with great precision and mostly through his inner mental monologue. While Busch writes excellent dialogue, his forte is his psychological process analysis. This skill is never more needed than in the detective and mystery genre.

A technique in his writing style that is somewhat new and quite inventive is his manner of transition. In this book, a wonderful and creative segue technique is developed; whereby a touch, a sound, the smell of coffee, the handle of a shovel can take the reader from one subplot to another seamlessly, but also, without obvious breaking points. This interesting stylistic element adds to the uniqueness and readability of the book.

While there is tragedy and difficulty in the story, Busch takes great pains to not be "careless with his characters." Each character is treated with respect and dignity, even if they do undignified things. The development of the personalities is cautious, but precise. And the resolutions of the plot and subplot elements are realistic, yet not gruesome or unduly painful.

Finally, Busch has a gift for writing love scenes. His mix of tactile and psychological writing allows him to portray personal interaction in a manner that has great clarity. And in addition, the scenes have portrayals that are hugely meaningful and explanatory. This book is recommended for all readers of serious fiction with an interest in the detective/mystery genre.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By D. Scott on February 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I'm torn in my feelings about this book. Frederick Busch was one of my favorite novelists, and "North" is beautifully written. With that said, There are many holes in this book, that left me depressed. With the exception of Jack, the main character, the importance of the rest of the cast of characters from it's prequel "Girls", are either downplayed or overexaggerated. If Frederick Busch were alive today, I would ask him why for instance, in "Girls" Jack, at the end of a failing marriage, had just became acquainted with State Trooper Elway Bird. But yet in "North", not only does Bucsh make it seem that they were friends for quite a few years before the timeline of "Girls", but also, out of nowhere, there is this "VooDoo Affair" Jack suddenly had with Elway Birds Wife, Sarah. (I call it a Voo Doo affair because it has no substance, it just miraculously appears out of nowhere in Jack's narrative). Also, Rosalie Piri, whom Jack has an affair with in "Girls" is downplayed in "North" to what amounts to nothing but a fling for Jack, when it was clear in "Girls" Jack had very strong and loving feelings toward her. She is only mentioned by name once in the novel, and another time in brief when Jack tells another character that he once had an affair with a college professor. Also, the beginning of the book "Girls" has Jack and the search team in the snowy field digging out the frozen dead body of Janice Tanner... yet in "North", its repeatedly stated that they never found Janice Tanner... I just don't get what Busch was thinking. Its like Busch wrote "Girls" and 40 years later decided to write "North" (even though it was only 7 years), forgetting the identities of all the characters he had carefully crafted before... with the exception of Jack's conciousness.

That being said, I did still enjoy the book, because as a mystery it is still well written on it own, and will definately keep you turning the pages.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Michael D. Bigham VINE VOICE on May 22, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Make no mistake, Frederick Busch can write like nobody's business. North is the followup to his novel, Girls. The protagonist, Jack, was once a cop, but now his career is on a downward slide following the death of his daughter and his divorce. But still Jack has an ethical urge to set things right, find those who are missing. This is a character-driven mystery and the reader will find that it meanders a bit. If you taste runs to straight formula mysteries, you might not like this; but if you like a little meat in your books, give this one a try.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
NORTH is a modern tragedy. Anyone who reads it would not question this statement. But the real tragedy here is how few people have read this book, how few people knew the magic of Fred Busch's fiction. Author of more than two dozen books, Busch was often referred to as a "writer's writer," which is a kind way of saying a guy who never had a bestseller. But he should have, and NORTH, along with its excellent prequel, GIRLS, should have topped the lists. Yes, the tragic hero of GIRLS, the long-suffering one-time cop, sometime rent-a-cop, returns in NORTH. There are no giants and no beanstalks in these two Busch books, but Jack is back. And so (briefly) is "the dog," his faithful companion from GIRLS. I find it odd that a writer like Busch, who so obviously loved dogs, created a hero (anti-hero?) who had a dog with no name. I always wonder what the significance of this was. As was the case in GIRLS, Jack is again trying to "rescue" someone. And once again, so very sadly, he fails. But he does so in the most human way. For Jack is a kind of Everyman in his trying to make things better. He supposedly doesn't have the words for the tragedies that have befallen him - in his marriage and in his friendships and work. But NORTH (and GIRLS) are perhaps the most eloquent novels of sorrow, loss and near-redemption that I have ever read. Many times, hearing Jack's inner monologue in my own mind as I read, I was nearly reduced to tears. There are a couple of reasons for this. The first, of course, is Busch's consumate skill in the creation of this guy; you'll never find a more human, sympathetic character in modern fiction. The other reason I was so saddened was the knowledge that Fred Busch is no longer with us. He died in February 2006. There will be no more stories of Jack.Read more ›
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