It's always exciting to find a new author. Obviously, since this is from 2008 and Thomas H. Cook has over 20 other novels and non-fiction books to his credit, his work is new only to me.
Master of the Delta looks at small town life in Sheonoba County, Mississippi. Jack Branch comes back to Great Oaks, his father's antebellum estate and takes a teaching position at Lakeland High School. We would call Branch's class which he has titled Evil, an option and he is free to set his own curriculum. His lectures draw from famous criminals like Jack the Ripper to dictators like Hitler to fictional characters for his examples. There are only 12 students and most are not great scholars or very motivated. Some of them come from the Bridges, the truly disadvantaged section of town. The rich sons, like Jack, himself, go off to boarding schools rather than attend the local, lowly public offering. Jack Branch is 24, it is the 1950's and he has fire in his belly. He is going to take some unfortunate under his wing and change his life. When he assigns a paper, his candidate is revealed. Eddie Miller is the son of the Coed Murderer, the evil man of Delta and after Branch's suggestion, decides to write about his own father. The research takes on a life of its own and digs into murky places from the past best left there. The novel switches from the 24-year-old Branch in the 50's to the present day and the dark secrets are revealed a little at a time. Thomas H. Cook has a reputation as one of the most literary of psychological-suspense authors and this book lives up to the claim. I'll be seeking out more of his books.
I am an avid reader and like to share some of my "finds" with others.