Death of the Black-Haired Girl.

Author:Stone, Robert
Position:Book review

Robert Stone's intense, naturalistic fiction and short stories are legend among readers and include such classics as National Book Award winner Dog Soldiers (1975), A Flag for Sunrise (1981), Outerbridge Reach (1992), and Damascus Gate (1998). Death of the Black-Haired Girl, Stone's first novel in a decade, examines the death of a college woman after a failed relationship with a professor.

The Story: At Amesbury, an elite New England liberal arts college in an economically depressed town, Maud Stack[mdash]beautiful, brilliant, and increasingly distanced from her Catholic roots[mdash]carries on a relationship with her literature professor and advisor, Steven Brookman, a man with his own past as an orphan and an ex-Marine. Now, with a pregnant wife and a young daughter, Brookman seeks to end the relationship; his life is turned upsidedown, though, when Maud dies in an accident after a drunken encounter with her lover. Featuring a host of quirky, conflicted characters and set against the backdrop of town-and-gown tension, her grieving, widowed father, a retired NYPD cop with nothing to lose, will do everything in his power to avenge his daughter's death.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 288 pages. $25. ISBN: 9780618386239

San Francisco Chronicle

"Stone, who has survived relatively brief teaching stints at Yale and Johns Hopkins, takes up the usually enervating and dull material endemic to universities ... and bestows on it a laser eye nd gift of soul and language he has heretofore reserved for more immediately arresting material. ... Anyone who loves fine fiction has no choice but to read this novel now." ALAN CHEUSE

Los Angeles Times

"What happens when we confront that what we see as order is really just chaos with a different face? This has been the subject of Stone's writing from the beginning, and if Death of the Black- Haired Girl, with its university setting, appears somewhat less exotic, that does not make its vision small." DAVID L. ULIN

New York Times

"After a melodramatic and embarrassingly overwritten novel, Bay of Souls (2003), and a wobbly collection of stories, Fun With Problems (2010), Black-Haired Girl also marks Mr. Stone's rediscovery of his voice[mdash]or, rather, a retooling of his voice for the purposes of creating a taut novel of psychological suspense. ... Even as Death of the Black-Haired Girl barrels along toward its melancholy conclusion, it explicates its characters' hope that life is not completely random." MICHIKO...

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