The bodies of an elderly colonel and his comely young wife are discovered on the staircase of their stately plantation home, their blood still dripping down the wooden balustrades. Within the sheltered walls of Cottoncrest, Augustine and Rebecca Chastaine have met their deaths under the same shroud of mystery that befell the former owner who had committed suicide at the end of the Civil War. Locals whisper about the curse of Cottoncrest Plantation, an otherworldly force that has now taken three lives. But Sheriff Raifer Jackson knows that even a specter needs a mortal accomplice, and after investigating the crime scene, he concludes that the apparent murder-suicide is a double homicide with local peddler Jake Gold as the prime suspect.
Assisted by his overzealous deputy, a grizzled Civil War physician, and the racist Knights of the White Camellia, the Sheriff directs a manhunt for Jake through a village of former slaves, the swamps of Cajun country, and the bordellos of New Orleans. But Jake's chameleon-like abilities enable him to elude his pursuers. As a peddler who has built relationships by trading fabric, needles, dry goods, and especially razor-sharp knives in exchange for fur, Jake knows the back roads of the small towns that dot the Mississippi River Delta. Additionally, his uncanny talent for languages allows him to pose as just another local, hiding his true identity as an immigrant Jew who fled Czarist Russia.
Michael H. Rubin takes listeners on the bold journey of Jake's flight within an epic sweep of treachery and family rivalry ranging from the Civil War to the civil rights era, as the impact of the 1893 murders ripples through the 20th century and violence besets the owners of Cottoncrest into the 1960s.
the old fashioned tang of the performance gave an original feel to the telling of the story. Wonderful story
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While this book did take me a little while to get into it, I did enjoy it and I’m glad I gave it the time it needed. The timeline does jump back and forth a bit and this confused me at first, and I’m usually good at holding onto which characters fit when. I think it was because some of the social attitudes stayed the same for the main characters in each time period. For instance, slavery was abolished by 1893 but racism and inequality were still huge issues in Louisiana. Jump forward to the 1960s and Hank Matthews, and some people still have the same attitudes. Even after finishing this book, I’m still a little unsure if there was a third time period, that being modern 2010s. There were short segments that were announced to be Modern Day but it felt like the 1960s where equal but separate was a thing.
So setting aside the time flux issue, which was my only complaint, I found this tale to have quite a bit of depth. We have the murder mystery element along with the social inequalities of the 1890s. The author did a great job of showing how it wasn’t a simplistic white versus black struggle. Instead he showed how there were inequalities and bigotry all over the place. Jake Gold and his mentioned bother Moishe serve as very interesting examples of how Jews in the deep South were treated at that time. Then there are women in general and how their lives are limited, especially Tee Ray Brady’s wife. Even Bucky, who is probably a little mentally handicapped, is ill-used by his closest ‘friends’. All those great examples are wrapped up in this double homicide of a prominent couple.
Sometimes there was a French-Cajun patois and I liked how this showed yet another side to this multi-faceted area of the USA. Little Miss, an elderly lady who’s lost much of her wits living at Cottoncrest Mansion in the 1890s, only speaks French. She quite enjoys Jake’s visits since he also speaks French and the two can spend hours chatting away. Jenny, a former slave, has been looking after Little Miss for years as she needs assistance with the simplest of tasks. However, there’s plenty of trouble brewing in this area of the Mississippi delta with the local KKK-like group, the Order of the White Camellia. So Jenny and many others have to make the hard choice of leaving their home to head north where there’s many more job opportunities.
My favorite character was Jake because he’s seen hard times as a kid and he’s now found himself in yet more hard times. He worked so hard to build himself a route of clients for peddling his wears to and now all that is threatened. His signature quality knives which he holds so much pride in may be his undoing.
My favorite ‘villain’ was Bucky. He seems quite the simple sort and he’s desperate to make his friends proud of him. However, his friends are users so this doesn’t work out so well for Bucky. At times I wanted to root for him and at other times I wanted to give him a slap and then steal him off to the library for some quality reading as I think he has potential.
The mystery of the Cottoncrest murders and the supposed curse had a very satisfying end. None of the characters end up with all the answers, but I as the reader was privy to all of them. It took time for the final justice to be meted out and I feel this is true with so much in life. Overall, The Cottoncrest Curse was insightful and gripping.
I received a free copy of this book.
The Narration: Neil Holmes started off needing just a little polish but he swiftly gets into the book and the various characters showing plenty of skill. His female character voices were believable and all the characters were distinct. I was especially impressed with the various accents and languages he had to perform (Cajun patois, French, Yiddish, deep South, more modern American, etc.). He really brought these characters to life always sounding like he was in the moment. I especially liked his voice for Bucky, who seems slightly confused much of the time.