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Book Nook: The Butcher's Hook, by Janet Ellis


I read a lot of crime novels and some of them are very good. Occasionally I'll read one that completely dazzles me. "The Butcher's Hook" by Janet Ellis is one of those books that made me perspire with shock and astonishment. And this is her literary debut! Amazing.

The story takes place in Georgian England. A young woman named Anne Jaccob is living a rather tedious life with her parents. Her mother is a ghost-like presence-the house has been in a state of depression and mourning for a while due to the death of Anne's younger brother, a toddler who had been their father's pride and joy as well as his only male heir.

Anne's mother has recently had another child, another daughter, but Anne has no feelings of warmth toward her new sister. Their father is also fairly unenthusiastic about this non-male addition to the household.

Meanwhile Anne, who is 19, is spending a lot of time fantasizing about men and thinking about sex. Anne's passions become the driving force in this novel. She develops an infatuation with the butcher's boy, a young man who is far below her social station and class. Anne's desires for him lead her to begin acting on her impulses. Our gentle Anne begins her transition into violence and retribution.

"The Butcher's Hook" is beautifully imagined and splendidly written. I am eagerly awaiting the next book by Janet Ellis. "The Butcher's Hook" has slain me. What a lovely death it was.

The Book Nook on WYSO is made possible by five local library systems in southwest Ohio:  the Greene County Public LibraryWashington-Centerville Public LibraryClark County Public Library, Dayton Metro Library, and Wright Memorial Public Library.

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Vick Mickunas introduced the Book Nook author interview program for WYSO in 1994. Over the years he has produced more than 1500 interviews with writers, musicians, poets, politicians, and celebrities. Listen to the Book Nook with Vick Mickunas for intimate conversations about books with the writers who create them.  Vick Mickunas reviews books for the Dayton Daily News and the Springfield News Sun.