Chenneville: A Novel of Murder, Loss, and Vengeance

Morrow. Sept. 2023. 320p. ISBN 9780063252684. $30. F
Jiles (Simon the Fiddler) continues her exploration of the tumultuous post–Civil War years with a beautifully written novel illuminating society across a wide swath of the lower United States. John Chenneville is a Union solider from a French-speaking Missouri family. He’s been in a Virginia field hospital, recovering from a serious head injury, but now he’s ready to carefully make his way home. When he gets there, he discovers that his younger sister and her family have been murdered. This sets him on a path of vengeance, as he implacably tracks down the man responsible for this crime, a serial killer only seen through Chenneville’s eyes. This structure allows Jiles to describe the landscapes and social conditions across the South, from Virginia to Missouri, through Oklahoma to Texas. The writing is poetic and descriptive, leavened with a hint of romance. Chenneville’s character is strong and unyielding; once he’s made a decision, he commits—but the novel’s unexpected conclusion sends him in new directions.
VERDICT With memorable and compelling characters, this slower-moving story will appeal to readers of history or Westerns. Recommended for fans of Jiles’s other titles or novels such as Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove.
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