Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil Book Review

June 17, 2015

It's hard to visit Savannah, Georgia without ever hearing any reference to Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. There are plenty of copies for sale in the souvenir shops along River Street, tour guides mention it left and right, and even locals say that it is worth reading. Of course, this book became even more popular due to the movie version of the tale being released in 1997.  Did you know it was directed by Clint Eastwood?  

Although this book is considered "non-fiction," it certainly reads like a fiction. Some of the stories and larger-than-life characters are so outrageous that while I was reading the book I had to stop and remind myself that these events actually took place and that the people featured in the story were real, even though their names may have been altered to protect their identities.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is the story of a journalist named John Berendt who comes down from New York City to visit Savannah.  Once he gets a taste of Savannah, he gets sucked into this eccentric city full of both darkness and beauty. Much of the story focuses on the mystery surrounding the events that took place at the Mercer House in 1981. Jim Williams, a self-made and antiques dealer, shot a young man by the name of Danny Hansford. Whether it was cold-blooded murder of self defense is questionable. Berendt not only presents the side of the prosecution and the defense, but also ties in the "two-cents" of other Savannahians. 

Besides the main event of the Jim Williams trial, here is just a slight preview of what you'll experience in this novel...You'll travel to Bonaventure Cemetery for a picnic or perhaps a voodoo ritual.  You'll also attend a drag show performed by the raunchy yet entertaining Lady Chablis. Fancy an invite to the exclusive Married Women's Card Club?  You'll go there, too.  You can also have brunch at Clary's with Luther Driggers, who may or may not decide to dump his deadly poison into Savannah's water supply.  The quirky characters and their shenanigans captured my interest and makes this book a lighter true-crime novel, although some now even use the book as a travelogue when visiting Savannah. 

I truly enjoyed the book and know that I am not alone, as it holds the record for being on the New York Times Bestseller List for the most consecutive weeks. I particularly recommend it for those who wish to deepen their understanding of Savannah. While the details of the Williams trial were intriguing, I did learn fascinating tidbits about Savannah's history and culture as well. The personalities and events in the book are memorable--pair that with some excellent storytelling, and you've got yourself a good read! 

What have you been reading lately?

2 comments on "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil Book Review"
  1. We toured the house this book is based on when visiting Savannah last year. I failed and forgot to read the book and see the movie beforehand but it's on my list now!

  2. The Mercer House! I'm actually going to tour it next week. :) I thought the book was a pretty good read, but of course I like it more because the setting is in a place that I am very fond of.