In this first part of her Gothic mystery trillogy, best-selling author Joyce Carol Oates introduces Xavier Kilgarvan, a romantic hero and amateur detective. He must discover who has murdered an innocent babe while it slept in his mother’s arms.
This turn-of-the-century tale of monstrous deeds and heart-stopping suspense will leave you eagerly looking for the next Kilgarvan case.
©1984 The Ontario Review, Inc. (P)1996 Recorded Books, LLC
In the top 10
The story is a twisting narrative that the reader has to piece together from implied meanings between the lines. It is not clear cut, it is a puzzle, just like the mystery at the center of the story. It's satire, as well. Oates pokes ironic fun at the social customs and bigotries of 19th Century America, and thus comments on the bigotry of today. She writes from a feminist perspective. The motives of the characters are ambiguous and deep; and are not always explained. Oates invites you to draw your own conclusions in some regards. She told me personally that Mysteries of Winterthurn is her favorite among her own works.
The narrator of the book is fussy, garrulous, pedantic and chauvinist. McDonough captures this voice to the "T". The narrator is unreliable. He doesn't even realize that he's telling the true story, even though he's reinforcing the ingrained misogyny, racism and class consciousness of the times. My favorite line: "Judge Kilgarvin regarded human goodness is merely an unrealized potential for evil..."
Babies in a Drawer
This recording made me a life-long fan of Joyce Carol Oates. She's a genius. But please note that she's sending up the Gilded-Age American society and the idiom as well. You may be off-put by the voice, which is more akin to Henry James, than to Willa Cather.
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