The Bookworm

By: Terri Schlichenmeyer

“Ravens” by George Dawes Green

c.2009, Grand Central Publishing $24.99

What would you do if you won the lottery? If you’re like most people, you’ve played that game with yourself. How would you act if you suddenly found yourself wildly wealthy? What if you were given one of those gigantic cardboard “checks” while standing in front of flashing cameras, stunned, scared and surrounded by silly-grinning officials? Would you share?

In the new book “Ravens” by George Dawes Green, the Boatwright family gives up half their winnings. But they did so very unwillingly.

Every Wednesday night, it was the same old scenario: Patsy Boatwright would get drunk on gin & tonics, lay the family’s lottery tickets on the coffee table, and scream at the TV when her numbers weren’t called.

It made Tara, Patsy’s college-age daughter, roll her eyes. Tara always tried to be out of the house when her mother started the “tradition.” She usually went to her grandmother Nell’s house. But on the night that the TV announcer called all the right numbers, Tara was glad she was home. Home to the tune of $35 million.

Burris Jones was thinking. Forty years ago, he was in love with Nell Boatwright but she spurned him. He never stopped loving her even though she married someone else, as did he, but he knew what Nell thought of him. It’s what everybody thinks of him: He’s a cartoon cop, barely good enough to direct traffic. Deputy Dawg, they call him. But Burris still watches over his Nell.

When Romeo Zderko and Shaw McBride left their small Ohio town to drive south on vacation, it was supposed to be an adventure. But somewhere in Georgia, everything went serious. Shaw heard that someone had won the lottery, big-time, and always the schemer, he saw opportunity. Moving quickly and taking charge, he pounced on the Boatwright household.

Romeo looked up to Shaw. They were best friends, blood brothers. So when Shaw told Romeo to “keep moving” around town while he worked the plan and to be ready to kill if something went wrong, Romeo started driving and thinking. Would he really be able to kill someone?

This is a work of fiction; You’d be hard-pressed to categorize “Ravens.” At first, it feels larkish: Just a couple of friends on a drive looking for adventure. You get a hint of what’s to come, but it all seems in fun until you notice a hint of darkness that builds and builds and builds.

Green toys with his readers, craftily switching from campy to creepy, often on the same page. You can’t help but squirm right along with the Boatwright family and you won’t be able to stop reading. When you’re done with frivolous summer fare, put “Ravens” on your list. You’ll feel as if you’ve hit the jackpot.

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