Jaclyn’s Review: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
written by John Berendt
published by Vintage, 2010

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Did I enjoy this book? This is a tough call! This book was recommended to me–I was told it was about a murder that happened in Savannah in the 1980s. I assumed that meant it was a murder mystery type book. It is NOT. The author spends the first half of the book giving a history and color to Savannah. The murder doesn’t happen until halfway through the book, and it almost comes through as an afterthought. The second half of the book covers the murder trial. Again, this is not the focus of the book–just an event happening in the background.

I think I would have liked this better if no one had told me what it was about. That being said, the writing in this book is OUTSTANDING. If you want to read a book that makes your brain happy, this is definitely it. The author won awards for this book and I totally understand why. The word choice, sentence construction, paragraph structure, chapter layout–everything is so well done!

I liked the writing; I didn’t like the story. I blame this on my own preconceived expectations.

Would I recommend it? If you want to read a well-written but slow-moving book, absolutely! If you are expecting a high-stakes story about a murder, this isn’t it.



About the book – from Goodreads: A sublime and seductive reading experience. Brilliantly conceived and masterfully written, this enormously engaging portrait of a most beguiling Southern city has become a modern classic.

Shots rang out in Savannah’s grandest mansion in the misty, early morning hours of May 2, 1981. Was it murder or self-defense? For nearly a decade, the shooting and its aftermath reverberated throughout this hauntingly beautiful city of moss-hung oaks and shaded squares. John Berendt’s sharply observed, suspenseful, and witty narrative reads like a thoroughly engrossing novel, and yet it is a work of nonfiction. Berendt skillfully interweaves a hugely entertaining first-person account of life in this isolated remnant of the Old South with the unpredictable twists and turns of a landmark murder case.

It is a spellbinding story peopled by a gallery of remarkable characters: the well-bred society ladies of the Married Woman’s Card Club; the turbulent young redneck gigolo; the hapless recluse who owns a bottle of poison so powerful it could kill every man, woman, and child in Savannah; the aging and profane Southern belle who is the “soul of pampered self-absorption”; the uproariously funny black drag queen; the acerbic and arrogant antiques dealer; the sweet-talking, piano-playing con artist; young blacks dancing the minuet at the black debutante ball; and Minerva, the voodoo priestess who works her magic in the graveyard at midnight. These and other Savannahians act as a Greek chorus, with Berendt revealing the alliances, hostilities, and intrigues that thrive in a town where everyone knows everyone else.


Happy 2

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** This post first appeared on Every Free Chance Books (everyfreechance.com) on January 4, 2018.


  1. Linda Fast says:

    I read the book because we were going to Florida and stopping in Savannah to see an old cemetery. A friend told me about the book so I read it. The grave yard was beautiful and worth the stop. There were a few other people walking in the graveyard with a copy of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. The book was not really what I usually read but if one is travelling through Savannah it is a must read. I only saw the cemetery but hopefully one day I can return and see the entire city.

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