This book is truly Southern Gothic—family secrets, manipulation, drinking to ease the pain of loss, plus guilt all around. This is a plot I can sympathize with–trying to right a wrong in your life before you die, knowing that even if you do accomplish murder, you will also be getting away with it because you only have three months to live.
Stepfather Ralph is a truly odious character, and I cringed every time he was around. The “bad thing” that makes him a target for murder isn’t explained until the end, but I was rooting for him to lose based on how Curtis described him, with his onion breath and mean eyes.
Even though Janie has murderous intentions, she is a sympathetic character and devoted to her sister, as the reader will discover as more of the plot is revealed. Suspense is generated via the reader knowing the clock is ticking both literally and figuratively on Janie’s life. There are a few close calls, and a flashback that will seem a bit out of place at the time, but once you get closer to the end it will all make sense. I’ll admit I was hoping for a different kind of ending (no spoilers here!), but I was satisfied how things turned out.
There is also love, strength, honor, and friendship. Almost all of the female characters are strong ones, trying to remain in control of their lives despite the curves thrown their way. The main thrust here is justice, a departure from the usual fare of girls chasing men under the guise of romance and pillow talk. Descriptions of Atlanta make you feel as if you are experiencing the town for yourself, and I could easily picture the characters in my head.
THE CLOCK STRIKES MIDNIGHT is a sleeper of a book; you turn the pages until you realized you’ve been hooked, quietly, and then you simply must see how things are going to turn out.
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