The Tilted World by Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly
Published by Pan
31st July 2014
April 1927. After months of rain, the Mississippi River has reached dangerous levels and the little town of Hobnob is at threat. Residents fear the levee will either explode under the pressure of the water or be blown by saboteurs from New Orleans, who wish to save their own city.
But when an orphaned baby is found, the lives of Ingersoll, a blues-playing prohibition agent, and Dixie Clay, a bootlegger who is guarding a terrible secret, collide. They can little imagine how events are about to change them - and the great South - forever.
For in the dead of night, after thick, illusory fog, the levee will break . .
This is another book featured in the ITV Specsavers Crime Thriller Club. Now I have to admit, if I'd seen this on a shelf in a book store I would probably have passed it by, but after watching the programme, everyone seemed so enthusiastic and positive about it, that I thought I ought to give it a go, and I'm glad that I did.
Having read it, I wouldn't put it into the crime genre myself, I think there is more to it then just 'crime'. There is a criminal element to it, as at the start of the book, we discover that two prohibition agents have gone missing, and partners Ham and Ingersoll have been sent by Herbert Hoover to find out what happened to them. What we then get, are two dead agents, and an abandoned baby who needs a new home. Ingersoll is charged with taking the baby to the orphanage, but along the way, in the town of Hobnob, he encounters Dixie Clay who has recently buried her baby son. He presents her with the baby to bring up as her own, little knowing at the time that her husband Jesse is the man they need to bring in, and that Dixie Clay is the one making the moonshine.
Alongside the twists and turns of good and bad, right and wrong, you also have the story of the floods of 1927, when the Mississippi River burst it's banks on Good Friday and caused a wall of water one hundred feet high and with twice the force of Niagara Falls to come searing down across the South. As an American Studies student myself, this is an event that I didn't know about, but it played an important part in the history of the southern states, and dramatically altered the lives and landscape of those who experienced it. The continuing rain throughout the story, alongside the growing tension that the river banks will overflow, adds a dramatic element to the story itself. You can feel the rain and the worry of the inhabitants of Hobnob, and all through the book you are waiting for that moment when you know the river is going to burst it's banks.
I think the best way to sum up this book is by actually quoting from the very end of the book:
This story is a story with murder and moonshine, sandbagging and saboteurs, dynamite and deluge. A ruthless husband, a troubled uncle, a dangerous flapper, a loyal partner. A woman, married to the wrong husband, who died a little every day. A man who felt invisible.But most of all, this is a love story....