The Browser: 'Wash,' and 'Practice to Deceive'

  • Updated: February 9, 2014 - 1:39 PM

Brief reviews of recent releases: 'Wash,' by Margaret Wrinkle, and 'Practice to Deceive,' by Ann Rule.

"Wash," by Margaret Wrinkle

WASH

By Margaret Wrinkle. (Atlantic Monthly Press, 408 pages, $25.)

In this debut novel, Margaret Wrinkle submerges the reader into the lives of a slave called Wash and his owner, Richardson, in Tennessee of the 1800s. It is a troubling experience, but worth the effort.

Richardson sees in Wash something special: a fine specimen to be bred as if he were a horse put to stud. And as the fledgling nation expands, there is a market for such services. As revolting as this notion is (the practice did exist at the time), Richardson makes it doubly so by also making Wash an unwilling confidante.

For his part, Wash realizes that this dehumanizing arrangement nonetheless gives him an unparalleled type of “freedom.” Where Richardson turns to alcohol and distances himself from his family, Wash finds strength in his mother’s stories of long-lost family members, and in a soulful connection with Pallas, a slave woman and healer who, like him, has survived hateful brutality.

Perhaps because there is so much that is awful in their world, Wrinkle makes one slight misstep: Her treatment of the couple’s quest for release and reassurance is so lyrical that at times it borders on the somnolent.

Kathe Connair, copy editor

 

PRACTICE TO DECEIVE

By Ann Rule. (Gallery Books, 352 pages, $26.99.)

Bestselling author Ann Rule falters in her latest book, “Practice to Deceive.” Known as a master of the true-crime genre, the former Seattle police officer tackles a complicated 2003 case of murder set on an idyllic island off the Washington coast.

The mystery of who killed Russ Douglas takes a decade to (mostly) unravel, with suspects eventually including Russ’ estranged wife, Brenna, her friend Peggy Sue Stackhouse, and Stackhouse’s sometime boyfriend, Jim Huden. Although the book begins promisingly enough, it suffers from bloat, with facts repeated needlessly and several chapters devoted to recounting a horrific 1963 murder that took the life of Stackhouse’s father’s first wife.

Don’t blame Rule completely, however, for the less than engrossing tale. The case itself, and its frustrating somewhat open-ended resolution, will leave most readers unsatisfied.

Do blame Rule — and her editors — however, for the first-person asides that creep in toward the end of the book, including multiple, jarring references to the fact that Rule had to keep changing her plane tickets to accommodate new trial dates.

Colleen Kelly, Mobile and Social Media Editor

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