The Devil Amongst the Lawyers by Sharyn McCrumb

This was a good story, although not the story I expected. In 1935, a young school teacher in the remote mountains of Virginia is charged with murdering her father. Because she is beautiful and the story sensational, national reporters are sent to cover the trial, and the young woman’s brother seeks exclusive rights to her story, with the money supposedly going to her defense fund.

The national reporters don’t find the hillbillies living in run down shacks that they expect, so they fabricate them.  Carl Jenkins, a recent college-graduate, is a reporter from Tennessee, who realizes that the star reporters are not actually reporting the truth, more perpetuating myths about Appalachian life.

Truth is the main issue here. Reporters shape what they know and see into a story their audience wants. But what is the truth? Is there a truth?

The commonwealth’s attorney warmed to his topic. “I had one of those reporters ask me if we conducted our court sessions up here in Gaelic, because he had heard that we were so remote we had never learned English. Why, I told him our people got here two hundred years ago. Our ancestors fought  in the American Revolution. But there are people in that fellow’s home city whose parents came over as immigrants only a few decades back, and all their children speak English already, don’t they? Why would anyone still be speaking Gaelic here? It’s sheer lunacy. People seem to lose their minds when it comes to thinking about these mountains.” (pg. 165, ARC)

We really get to know more about the reporters than the town’s inhabitants. We learn their backstories, their view on the mountain people and how little they value the townsfolk. When what they see doesn’t match up with what they want to see they make up their own story, aware that they can twist public opinion in whatever they want. Made me think about our media today. I’m sure they report the truth, eh?

Although we learn about Carl, a semi-local boy, and Nora Bonesteel, a recurring character in McCrumb’s Ballad novels makes an appearance, I really wanted to learn more about the people who live in the hills of Virginia, about heir lives and the environment, which is why the book was different than I expected. The novel really focuses on the trial and the media circus that surrounds it. It’s not as much about the land, the music and the people as I thought it would be. That being said, I do love McCrumb’s writing style, she has a way with words that I really connect with, that brings her characters and settings to life for me.

I actually have two copies of The Devil Amongst the Lawyers to giveaway. Leave me a comment below by August 4 to enter. I’ll announce the two random winners on the 5th. This one’s open to the US and Canada only.

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Published June 22, 2010 by Thomas Dunne Books
Ballad Novel #8
320 pages

Challenge: 100+

I received my advance readers’ edition from the publisher for review and the above is my honest opinion. I am an Amazon associate.


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