In the town of Alexandria, Mississippi, 12-year-old Harriet feels a void due to the death of her older brother, Robin. Though he was found hanging from a tree when Harriet was a baby, the impact of his apparent murder has had a profound effect on her entire family. Her father lives in Tennessee and rarely sees Harriet and her sister, Allison. And Charlotte, Harriet's mother, suffers from depression, leaving the housekeeper to care for the girls.

As summer progresses, Harriet decides to find the person responsible for Robin's death. She and her friend Hely embark upon this mission enthusiastically, but the consequences have a shattering impact.

While this novel depicts some rather frightening events in Harriet's life, its view of small-town southern life sometimes focuses on gritty reality, touching love, and smidgens of humor. Though lengthy, Ms. Tartt's tale is so absorbing the reader will be reluctant to leave Harriet behind. (Nov., 480 pp., $26.00)

Reviewed by: 
Sheri Melnick