I'm glad I listened to this book on my iphone because I would not have been able to tolerate the the cover in even a mass-market-sized art. I believe that life is too short to read bad books---and I finished this one so that is certainly worth three stars. The narration is awkward, but it certainly doesn't ruin the text. Do not be fooled though; this is not about the birth of forensic medicine or murder by poison. At least one half of the book is about the dangers of Prohibition-age alcohol or alcohol-substitutes (self-poisoning). It is interesting and informative but not an expository revelation. If you are a Forensic Files fan, this is not your book. If you are more of a Dirty Jobs kind of person, this will certainly give you the details you crave.
I haven't written fan mail since I was around 10, and apparently Bo Duke did not actually live in Hazard County. Now I'm working on my letter to Thomas Mullen. The author's ability to create such texture with the layering of context, setting, conflict, and characters (within a very confined setting and a small cast of unique characters) allowed me to appreciate this well-crafted novel on two different levels.
The act of the small town quarantining itself from the flu (and the war) can never be proven as hubris or selfless humility. The characters' internal and external conflicts are never proven as perception or reality. The novel, then, is an engaging read; I felt like the plot could not continue without my participation. As I writer, I was awed by the consistency of the tightness of the plot and the comprehensive creation of the characters made Commonwealth a real world, populated with people I cared about.
Mullen's story is painful at times. A lot of times. But this is still the most fun I've had with a book in a long while.
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