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by Kip Gayden
Center Street, February 2008
330 pages
ISBN: 159995687X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Summer 1896. Anna Dennis, a 16-year-old pastor's daughter from Lafayette, Tennessee, arrives at Red Boiling Springs Tennessee Christian Camp. Walter Dotson, a camp volunteer and third year medical student at Vanderbilt, falls in love with her at first glance. They observe the rules, never being along together during her two weeks at camp, until the last night, when she walks to his cabin and they kiss.

During the Christmas vacation, Anna is volunteering at the local hospital when she discovers Walter's name on the list of interns. She schemes to introduce him to her parents and by the end of his four-week internship, he is firmly hooked.

They marry and move to Chicago and then Vienna. Anna has a daughter and a son and then a miscarriage. The love affair seems to be over. Walter is more interested in his practice, his music, and his Shakespeare than in his wife or her interests. In 1906 they return to Tennessee and life goes on. They own a large home near the center of town. Walter is a successful specialist, but Anna is bored. There are only so many times she can read magazines or go shopping for that perfect piece of ribbon for her daughter's hair.

One day, while she is seated in her front yard, a man, new to town, crosses over from the hotel, doffs his hat and starts a conversation. He is Charlie Cobb, a barber, who soon endears himself to both Anna and Walter. The inevitable happens and the spurned wife falls for the man in the bowler hat.

Gayden slowly leads up to the crime and trial, both of which are 'ripped from the headlines.' The story is taken from the articles that appeared in the Nashville newspapers of the period. The crime is shocking enough, but the results of the trial are completely unexpected. The slow build-up reflects the slower period during which they occurred. The procedural part of the story moves with great pace and is the centerpiece of this first novel.

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, February 2008

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