“Rule number one: Always stick around for one more drink. That’s when things happen. That’s when you find out everything you want to know.”
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is probably the best of the (six) books I’ve read so far this year. I’m hardly surprised, since I loved The City of Falling Angels by Berendt as well. He has a great writing style that makes his stories easy to read, and hard to remember that they’re not fiction. The events of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil take place in Savannah, in the early 1980s.
I had heard Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil was a murder mystery, and while a murder takes place, that isn’t really the focus of the book. Berendt takes his time introducing the characters, and they’re really the best part. He meets a variety of people from all sorts of backgrounds while in Savannah, and uses them to illustrate the city as a whole — genial to outsiders while trying to remain independent; obsessed with gossip and social status while trying to appear above it all. One of the best characters (it’s hard not to call these people characters — they’re all real people, although Berendt admits to some embellishment) is the Lady Chablis — she’s funny and nasty and gives Berendt a hard time all through the book.
A murder does occur, and then we get to see how the Savannah handles a murder case. Hint: it involves everything from high price lawyers to voodoo. Berendt goes along gamely with it all — interviewing lawyers, talking to neighbors and going to graveyards at midnight.
His writing style is relaxed and humorous. What I really like it that he doesn’t pull the focus of the story onto himself; he just goes with the flow and writes it all down. Very enjoyable read!