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The Louisiana parish of Nakadee, a typical town of Creoles, Cajuns, Blacks, and Whites, is more interested in its annual Hot Sauce Festival than in the lives of two eccentric celebrity writers living in the “Hollykook” house. Dr. Lula Logan, a Northerner teaching forensic anthropology at the local university—and researching the stories buried in the graves of local slaves—is reluctantly drawn into an investigation by her ex-boyfriend, a detective, regarding a severed finger left at the Police Department. As the investigation expands, she is caught up in a romantic tug-of-war with an enigmatic U.S. Congressman who turns her liberal worldview upside down. She is also thrust into the lives of the town’s colorful suspects, including a head-turning Confederate-sympathizing college student, a precocious wanna-be- rapper, and a scholarly handyman. Everybody is connected in Nakadee, which leads to intriguing alliances among the rich, not so rich, and those on their way to being important. When the crimes become a murder investigation, Lula discovers that small towns like Nakadee are not always what they seem, and sometimes hide very big secrets.
Vibrant and compelling, Severed is the debut novel from author VL Towler, who brandishes her pen with unabashed flair. Original in thought and tenor she admirably declines to serve up the archetypal forensic fiction found in the majority of police procedurals, eschewing the tedium of less imaginative works to take her readers on an intriguing journey that challenges racial and cultural stereotypes. We may supposedly live in a post-racial world, but it's not a colour-blind one; we might advocate greater tolerance, but old cultural prejudices still bubble beneath the surface. At its heart, Towler’s novel might be an old-fashioned murder mystery but her prose is extraordinarily smart. Every word of dialogue is measured, insightful and polarising, taking us to the crux of her characters. This allows for the obligatory tension and suspense, which is the backbone of the genre and makes for the best Thriller Mystery novels, but more notably social commentary. It’s this more than anything that brings her wonderfully nuanced characters to life, and no more than protagonist Lula Logan. Through tender attention to Lula’s sensibilities and Towler’s ability to enunciate the intricacies of forensic anthropology, she engenders an authenticity often absent in lesser works and elevates her novel to a class of its own.
Weaving multiple narratives through an imaginative and richly layered plot that is flawless in its execution, Severed proves immediately engaging and a genuine page turner from the start. Up there with the very best Forensic Crime novels, it certainly bodes well for future releases from V L Towler and is recommended without reservation.
Severed: A novel by V L Towler
There's only one small town in America and it's fictional!
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The weirdest things happen to me. I must find a way to process my experiences. Ergo, I write. Severed was my first published novel. I hope to write again, but it better take less than 10 years the second round!
I love British authors, Daphne DuMaurier and Iain Pears, and the classics. Oddly enough, I don't consider myself an Anglophile. I like British writers because they revel in their writing: they combine the lushness of words, while conveying important information. Overall, their stories are riveting. I love the English language, but after law school it's hard to relax when reading, as I tend to be quite analytical. Some of this might come across in my own writing, hopefully, to good effect, especially as I have written a whodunit!
"If in doubt, have two guys come
through the door with guns."