Jodi Picoult, Salem Falls
Jack St. Bride was a teacher in a private school for girls when he was accused of raping one of his students. Despite his claims that he was innocent, his lawyer advised him to plead guilty. After eight months in prison, Jack settles in the small town of Salem Falls, New Hampshire, and finds a job at the local diner. But as a sexual offender, Jack has to announce himself at the police station, and in a place like Salem Falls, news travel quickly.
Despite the fact that Jack begins a relationship with Addie, who hired him at the diner, people start to become suspicious of him. Parents fear for their teenage daughters, and soon several incidents occur taking Jack for target, and making him feel unwelcomed in Salem Falls.
For Gillian Duncan, daughter of the local wealthy businessman, Jack is not a man to fear, but a schoolgirl’s fantasy. She is trying by all means to attract his attention. With her friends, she has created a convent of witches. They read books of magic, cast spells and feel proud of having a secret, something that they can hide from their parents. But one day, after a nightly celebration, Gillian claims that Jack has raped her. Is she lying? Can a man be so unlucky as to be wrongly accused of the same crime twice? And if he is innocent, how will he convince all that have condemned him in advance, and mostly the woman he loves and who loves him?
Salem Falls is another of Jodi Picoult’s courtroom dramas. I like to pick a Picoult’s book when I need to really escape into fiction, because her books manage to grab my attention from the start and are real page turners, without being too challenging (unfortunately, I am not always in the mood for a challenging book…). She is not a great writer, but she certainly has original ideas and knows how to weave them into intricate plots. This novel is no exception: the suspense is intense, Picoult did a lot of research in the subject of Wicca, and manages to make a point. She wanted to write a present-day The Crucible, and to show that the feelings and passions that lead to the witches trial do not belong to the past and that suspicion and fear can still lead to the same consequences in a small-town environment, today as yesterday. The final twist did not take me by surprise this time, I had seen it coming, but it is often what happens when one is familiar with the author’s works: the reader comes to think like the author and understands how he or she usually creates effects of surprise.
Salem Falls is not Picoult’s best novel, but might be a good place to start with, if you’re still unfamiliar with her books…