Leah Greenblatt
August 30, 2013 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The Maid's Version

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Daniel Woodrell
publisher
Little, Brown and Company
genre
Fiction

We gave it an A

At a slim 164 pages, it’s tempting to call this tale, The Maid’s Version, of a deadly dance-hall explosion in West Table, Mo., in 1929 a novella — until you read the first dense, dazzling paragraph. It’s almost as if Woodrell, the master of celebrated Ozark-gothic reveries like Winter’s Bone, writes his sentences in clotted cream, where other authors work in skim milk. In just a few curlicued lines, dozens of West Table’s citizens — bankers and derelicts, brimstone preachers and good-time girls — are brought vividly to life. (Some of them are among the 42 victims of the blast; others might be the cause of it.) Maid’s is a whodunit, but really it’s the who and not the dun that stays with you: Characters are drawn with such skill and sympathy that every fate resonates. A

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