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Motherless Children: A Mississippi Delta Mystery Paperback – December 2, 2011

4.5 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

The decline of a grand Southern family forms the backdrop of a rich, complicated mystery. In 1946, Sam Swain, Chief of Police of Williams Point, investigates the murders of Adelia Southworth and her niece, Madeleine. The plot unfolds over a hot, nervous week, but the author, in absolute control of the material, weaves a nearly fifty-year family saga into the narrative. The vivid language elevates the story, and the solution to the mystery ends up both unexpected and satisfying.

- Publishers Weekly review of submission to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest

From the Author

Faulkner and the blues drew me to the South. It seemed to me a place of fertile paradox. I spent two years in Mississippi, most of it in the Delta, learning from its people, both black and white, of its history and present day. They taught me much, with good grace and patience, always confident that they had a hell of a tale to tell. People have called the Delta the most southern place on earth. That may be true. But it also is a most American place. It's had it all: frontier striving, racial oppression and contest, rich and poor living cheek to jowl, exuberance and sophistication. I came with eyes wide open and left with an affection for the people I had come to know: all at once ordinary, heroic, and tragic. 'Motherless Children' is a down payment on the debt I owe them.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 412 pages
  • Publisher: Hushpuckena Press (December 2, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0615533140
  • ISBN-13: 978-0615533148
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,127,033 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I first read an excerpt of this book when reviewing entries in the yearly Amazon contest. Out of forty-some entries, this one remained fixed in my mind. Much like The Help, but viewed from the white side of deeply rooted issues, once I began to read the entire novel, I could not put it down.

This is a murder mystery in the old style and southern to the bone, complete with white judgments, black timidity, and storefront gossip. The author quickly introduces a full cast of characters with family and historical loyalties that move slowly through a timely narrative. The humid atmosphere smothers the town in the Mississippi Delta, where everyone is related to everyone else and the rich and white rule the land, government, and law. But times are changing and former slave families are beginning to let go of the past and actively search for new futures.

Playing both sides of the house, stubborn sheriff Sam Swain sets out to find the person who murdered overbearing Auntie and her silly niece Maddie. Both victims are descendants of the towns founder, a cotton farmer who carved a rich existence from the delta's muddy bottom lands. Maddie's merchant father becomes Swains first suspect and, when a decaying foot floats up from the muddy river bottom, his suspicions appear to be correct.

Author Randall Luce has provided vivid landscapes of both land and mind in this gripping tale. This is a fantastic read, not just for its entertainment value, but for the lessons learned when tensions between cultures explode in ways that destroy both present and future.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
His descriptions were so well done, unlike others I've read, and I never skipped any part of the story. He held my interest and imagination. I noticed that I was actually visualizing the story while reading it. I couldn't wait to get back to the book and was sorry when it ended. I also didn't know "who did it" til the end...how nice.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I read the beginning of "Motherless Children" when it was a finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, and it impressed me as having a strong sense of time and place -I could almost feel the humidity and see the manners of the post-War Mississippi Delta- and a good mystery to unravel -the best kind in the South: a family mystery. When I discovered that the book had been published, I was eager to find out if Randall Luce's evocative opening carried through.

The story opens in 1921, on Avalon plantation, owned and established by Big Byron Southworth, who carved it and the nearby town of Eudora out of the land. A black man has shot himself to death in the shed. Twenty-five years later, while Big Byron's eldest son Little Byron and wife Helen visit the home of their brother-in-law Tommy Lott, Little Byron's sister "Auntie" and niece Madeleine Lott are poisoned with arsenic. Police Chief Sam Swain, put-upon and constrained by politics, is determined to find the culprit and frustrated by the family's diffident cooperation.

Luce not only makes good on his strong start; he improves upon it. The pace never slows, the twists and turns are many, often unexpected, but never strain credibility. We observe the social customs and outdated race relations of the deepest South, where fears of impending change bubble up violently, from the perspective of privileged whites, working class blacks, and the less socially advantaged whites who resent both. Luce has intertwined, not one, but many mysteries. There are deaths past and present, family secrets, and mysterious motives.

The third-person narration of Chief Swain's investigation alternates with first-person narration by the individual suspects and victims involved in the case.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
There are sterling moments in literature when the author tells us something we did not know we knew. I found Mr. Luce quite capable in so doing. The story is engaging, the prose profound, and the characters caught me by the collar and would not let me go. Women marginalized by the unforutnate arrangement of their physical features yet filled with a will of iron or the posion of entitlement. Men stunted by fate and fury. Racial inequity and iniquity are brillantly displayed by three very minor characters called the "three fates" who guard the staus quo of the seat of justice. Our greater fates are faith, hope and charity, these false witnesses are the direct opposite and devoid of all three. Yet, in how many moments of judgement and criticism have I been also guilty.
This book will lead the reader to still waters. Fill the mind with suspense, mystery, and provocation. Why else do we read? What else can we hope for? It makes me angry that work of this quality "Washes like a twig in a stream" as Mr. Luce describes. I will be recommending this book for quite a while to come.
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Format: Paperback
This is a wonderful mystery novel, depicting life in the South in the late 1940s. With its wonderful prose and enticing storyline, this novel is a must read for all. Luce does a spectacular job creating his in-depth characters, leading the reader down multiple paths as Sam Swain searches for the murderer of two prominent women. Amazingly enough, nothing is as it seems in Williams Point, and as Swain uncovers the countless truths behind the townsfolk, multiple interesting twists come to light, making many a suspect in the recent murder.

I spent the majority of this novel thinking I knew exactly who the murderer was. When that didn't pan out, I pinpointed the next suspect and was certain he/she was to blame. After that fell through, I was positive that I knew the killer for certain this time around, and yet Luce stumped me repeatedly as this novel unfolded. In the end, I never saw the true identity of the murderer coming, but it made such perfect sense that I can't believe I overlooked it. Luce is, indeed, and amazing mystery writer, with his solid prose and detailed descriptions, Motherless Children is a wonderful novel that I highly recommend. You won't be disappointed.
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