Friday, October 7, 2011

The House on Tradd Street by Karen White: A Review

At the urging of my wife and my appreciation for Charleston, I borrowed her book, The House on Tradd Street by Karen White. This mystery was a fairly quick read on my daily train ride into work as it was just over 300 pages. The book had its pro’s and con’s which I will elaborate on in a bit, but overall I would recommend it to those that love a good southern ghost tale with a little humor and southern charm mixed in. There is no plot spoiler here, so feel free to read on as I do not give too much away in my review.

One of the main benefits of this read was White’s ability to successfully transplant the reader to walking down the streets of Charleston whether on King, Meeting, or even Tradd streets. I always felt that the best time in Charleston can be spent with a “to go” cup of coffee and spending an evening walking through this great city. White spares no opportunity to mention the highlights of the city such as St. Michaels, the circular church, Copper River Bridge, and several local eateries such as Ansons and Jestines. She mentions the main character’s affinity to a local bakery known as Ruth’s, though I am unsure if this location is fictional or not.

White excels with the development of the main characters Melanie Middleton, and Jack Trenholm. Some could criticize Melanie’s rather brash or abrasive personality, but that is excusable considering her childhood past. Yes, Melanie is protective and guarded with emotions, though White skillfully plays out Melanie’s vulnerability a few times throughout the book during interactions with the Colonel (Melanie’s father) and even Jack Trenholm.

Jack Trenholm, author and Charlestonian takes an interest in the mystery of the house on Tradd and becomes a likable sort right from the beginning of the book. He comes off arrogant, though likable and becomes a good friend, borderline love interest of Melanie.

The other great attribute to this book was the ghost factor. The haunting of this home sounded quite typical of the ghost stories one will hear as they experience the bulldog ghost tours of Charleston. Most of the ghost stories in Charleston usually stem from tragedy involving parent to child losses or even love triangles that ended up in murder which pre-empted hauntings to occur. Karen White seems to hold true to that storyline and does a decent job of it.
Some of the things that could have been left out of the book were the historic name dropping in the book. I realize to this day, one can go through downtown Charleston and surrounding areas and still find descendants of the great Charleston names. White seemed to run up the tab with dropping the names of Middleton, Drayton, Vanderhorst, and a few others. I think the same effect could have been achieved with Smith, Walker, and Jones.

The side character development also appeared rather weak as Melanie’s best friend, a teacher at the college of Charleston came across as overly stereotyped as was the teacher/yoga instructor Chad that is Sophie’s friend. Their involvement to the book did not add too much significance and their quirkiness bordered on being a tad cheesy. Just my two cents.

Overall, I enjoyed Karen White’s The House on Tradd Street and found this read to be a good escape to almost being in Charleston; though without the desire of being in the presence of the supernatural.

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