13 1/2: A Novel

13 1/2: A Novel

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With 13 ½, Nevada Barr, New York Times bestselling author of the award-winning Anna Pigeon novels, has written a taut and terrifying psychological thriller. It carries the reader from the horrifying 1970s murder spree of a child—dubbed “Butcher Boy” by a shocked public—in Rochester, Minnesota, to Polly, the abused daughter of Mississippi “trailer trash,” to post-Katrina New Orleans.

In Jackson Square in the French Quarter a tarot card reader told Polly Deschamps she would be a success. Thirty years later, Polly is a respected professor of literature with good friends and her own home—a safe life for her and her two daughters.

Butcher Boy, released on his seventeenth birthday, shook the snow from his boots and headed south.

New Orleans, a Mecca for runaways then and now, offers sanctuary but never forgiveness.

When Polly falls in love with Marshall Marchand, a restoration architect who is helping to rebuild her adopted city, shadows of the past rise out of the poisoned ground of New Orleans as thick and deadly as the toxic waters of the flood.

Like history, some crimes are doomed to repeat themselves. Evil stays the same, only the victims’ names change. As two broken pasts collide in an uncertain present, Polly is determined that her children’s names will never be on that list.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501276187
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication date: 10/15/2015
Edition description: Unabridged
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.00(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Nevada Barr is the award-winning author of thirteen previous Anna Pigeon mysteries, including the New York Times bestsellers Hard Truth and High Country. She lives in New Orleans.


Clinton, Mississippi

Date of Birth:

March 1, 1952

Place of Birth:

Yerington, Nevada


B.A., Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, 1974; M.A., University of California at Irvine, 1977

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13 1/2 3.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 86 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1971 eleven year old Dylan Raines killed his entire family except his older brother Richard whose leg was severely sliced up. Dylan suffered from selective amnesia not recalling how he murdered his father, mother, sister and cat with an ax that put him in the international headlines as Minnesota's "Butcher Boy". Richard takes Dylan from Rochester to New Orleans with him to start over. Polly Deschamps grew up in Mississippi living in a brutal home. At fifteen she fled into the night vowing to never return. Now she is a professor at Tulane raising two kids as a single mom following a divorce. Polly remarries charming Marshall who is extremely nice to her daughters. However her new spouse acts odd at times and her brother-in-law Danny is even stranger; which begins to frighten her. With Anna Pigeon taking a breather, Nevada Barr provides a compelling psychological thriller that grips the audience from the start to the finish in a one sitting family drama. The story line is character driven as the strong casts including powerful secondary players like the tarot card reader make for a tremendous tense tale. Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anna Pidgeon fans may be disappointed. A very gritty story, but even in the dark ages of the 1960's I think police investigation was more thorough than this book gave credit for. Language is much more profane than most of Nevada Barr's work and the plot becomes predictable.
Pookydoo More than 1 year ago
If you are looking to find Anna Pigeon in this book, go look somewhere else. This story is a totally different direction for Ms. Barr, one that I wasn't sure I would like. However, it was riveting and kept me thoroughly engrossed. I chose the audio version, and didn't need for a moment to worry about falling asleep on the road!
kadydid More than 1 year ago
This is really different for Nevada Barr. Was she high when she wrote this and it was her private demons spilling unto the paper? I read it, I enjoyed it (I think) but the thought that some children are just born bad leaves a bad taste (blood) in my mouth. But then I am a somewhat Pollyanna also.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the first nevada barr book i heave read. Wow! I found it to be a fabulous page turner, full of suspense and completely thrilling. It was a very dark novel, so reader beware. Nevada showed phenomenal skill in her manner of writing-the way she wove the story together did force you to pay close attention, but i found i did not want to put it down! If you are up for a dark psychological thriller, you have found it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very, very good!!
tweedy-bird More than 1 year ago
I am used to reading and really enjoy her stories with Anna Pigeon and was not expecting this murder mystery. It was very good but disturbing and I would not recommend for teens and younger. If you love murder mystery stories you will give this 4 or 5 stars as it ends with an a chillingly well written ending.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Nevada Barr is best known for her Anna Pigeon series, but now she brings us her first stand-alone novel, 13 Ôø¿, a dark psychological thriller that will surprise, and impress, her legion of fans.Polly Deschamps is making a good life for herself in New Orleans. She had a tough childhood, and now is determined to give her own daughter the love and care that she never knew. When she meets Marshall Marchand, it seems that the last piece of the puzzle has fallen into place. After a whirlwind courtship, they are married, but Polly soon starts to believe that Marshall might have secrets of us own. In Minnesota in 1968, two young boys awake to find their lives utterly changed. Their family is murdered and Dylan, the younger brother, is accused of the crime. He is dubbed "The Butcher Boy" but his older brother Richard stands beside him, even as he is sentenced for the crime. What does this long ago night have to do with Marshall and his brother Danny? And what will Polly have to do to protect herself and her daughter from the shadows of the past?Barr delves into the heart of evil and wonders - are we doomed to repeat our mistakes or is it possible for there to be hope and redemption in spite of everything that has gone before? Tautly written and perfectly paced, this one will keep you guessing until the very end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author has great writing skills which makes the book a pleasure to read. Very suspenseful and interesting. Highly recommend.
khiemstra631 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I listened to two-thirds of the audio version of this book and plan on finishing it in the print format. The plot is definitely spine-tingling, but the language is very offensive. I did not enjoy driving and having narrator screaming the "F" word repeatedly along with every other profanity imaginable. I realize that Barr probably did it to make her characters realistic, but I feel that it was way overdone. I'm not convinced people talked like that in the time period in question, although perhaps they did in prison. Nonetheless, I don't care to listen to it and ranked the book lower for that reason. The perverse evil of one character fills this very dark book. If that is what you like to read about, then you will no doubt love it. I have chosen to fill my mind with slightly more positive topics while not ignoring the evil that is certainly present in the world. I'll wait for the next Anna Pigeon book with anticipation.
bgknighton on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A good solid mystery. Introspective without being too much. A twist on evil is in the eye of the beholder and the effect of evil effectively hiding among the innocent.
LaurieRKing on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's always a nervous time when a series author ventures out of the safety of the familiar, but this one works. It's a thriller, not a mystery; Polly Deschamps is no Anna Pigeon; and it's set, not in a national park, but post-Katrina New Orleans. But I urge you to take a step away from the familiar, and find a clever and emotionally real story about how people with calamitous pasts can make themselves anew.
nhcoffin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I miss her National Park mysteries, but this was pleasingly complex.
alyson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Too scary/disturbing for me. Also I really did not believe the Polly/Marshall love story.
Beezie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Disclaimer: I didn't finish this one. Mine was an audio version. It opens with this passage describing brutal child rape. In detail. The reader is a man, and he sounds...excited. Way too porny - and not in the fun way. I figured I'd give it a chance, so I skipped around the chapters. Bored by the prospect of listening to more of this jumbled mess, I deleted the file.
SamSattler on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Nevada Barr's "13 ½" has a lot going for it. Right from the beginning of the book, Barr forces her readers to look through wide open eyes at the horrors happening behind the closed doors of two very different families. In a 1970 Mississippi trailer-park, a young girl suffers a horrific rape at the hands of one of her alcoholic mother's lowlife boyfriends. Meanwhile, up in Minnesota, a small eleven-year-old boy uses his father's axe to wipe out the rest of his family. An older brother, heavily bleeding from what will prove to be a near fatal wound, manages to survive only by knocking his little brother unconscious with a blow to the head. Barr pulls no punches, choosing instead to describe the rape and murders in unflinching detail - and readers making it this far will feel compelled to learn what else the author has in store for the rape victim and the "butcher boy." Unfortunately, the set-up of "13 ½" proves to be much better than the rest of the book. Barr has written a mystery/thriller but seasoned readers will find there is very little "mystery" to her mystery, and they will be reduced to reading the rest of the book mostly to verify their early suspicions. What happens decades later when Polly Farmer, the rape victim, and the Butcher Boy cross paths in post-Katrina New Orleans becomes more and more predictable and less and less believable as the story races toward its climax. Barr uses flashbacks for one of the more interesting episodes of the novel, the period during which the eleven-year-old murderer is placed inside a facility for young offenders. He is to be held there until, at age 18, he will be transferred to a men's prison to serve the rest of his sentence. Because the boy is three or four years younger than everyone else in the center, authorities are reduced to locking him inside a hospital room for his own protection for the first several days they have him. Dylan Raines, though is a perceptive boy, and he easily adapts to the mores and requirements of living among the petty criminals and bullies surrounding him (including some of the guards). He uses his infamy as a mass murderer to good advantage but, as is often the case, jail changes him in ways that make him more a criminal now than he was when he went in. Flash forward to 2007 New Orleans where Polly is now a respected English professor, divorced with two daughters, and Dylan is a wealthy architect. The two meet in a small city park where Polly sometimes comes to read and they feel an immediate attraction to one another. Will it be a fatal attraction for Polly? "13 ½" has the makings of an exceptional thriller but several of its main characters are so over-the-top that it is difficult to identify with the ones that are intended to be sympathetic. The exaggerated characters often border on cliché and give the book such a strong feeling of unreality, almost parody, that it is difficult to take seriously the dangers faced by Polly and her daughters. That is not a good thing in a thriller that could have been so much better than it is. Rated at: 2.5
LiteraryLinda on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Departing from her Anna Pigeon series, Barr gives us a story of murder with a plot that moves at breathtaking speed.
Britt1075 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was a definate thriller. There were two main characters that pulled you into their lives and took you from their youth to their lives now living in post Katrina New Orleans. Both characters were well developed and interesting. I loved the twist in the end, though if you were really paying attention you could figure out what was going to happen long before the end. Still a very good, fast paced book.
cathyskye on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
First Line: "By the Month or by the Night" read the sign over the entrance to the trailer park.In a radical departure from her Anna Pigeon mystery series, Nevada Barr gives us a psychological thriller that begins in the 1970s in a trailer park in Mississippi. It then moves to Minnesota with the murder spree of a child dubbed "Butcher Boy." Finally in post-Katrina New Orleans, the adults from both these broken childhoods collide.Polly escaped from her abusive "trailer trash" childhood at the age of fifteen, running away to New Orleans. Now she's a respected college professor with good friends, her own home, and two small children she adores."Butcher Boy" was released on his seventeenth birthday. His surviving brother has vowed to take care of him, and they both head south to that Mecca for runaways: New Orleans.When Polly meets and falls in love with Marshall Marchand, a restoration architect who's helping to rebuild the city, their pasts are set on a collision course.I love Barr's books, and although this book is very good, it didn't quite meet my expectations. It has everything to do with the characters. Perhaps it's because my mind is too devious, but there were few surprises with the Marchand brothers. I knew how that part of the plot was going to work itself out. That was a bit disappointing, but the character of Polly did much in making up for the deficiencies of the Marchands.Even after the train wreck of her childhood, Polly was such a strong, centered, caring person that I wish the book could have focused even more on her. I wanted more Polly. Perhaps you'll understand after reading these two quotes: "Two girls-- children in Polly's eyes but of the age she'd been the first time she'd come to Jackson Square-- rose from a table tucked between the benches opposite the cathedral doors. They were tricked out in the unfortunate fashion that decreed female children dress as prostitutes in a world full of predators. "The dog, his head as high as his mistress's shoulder, walked beside her. The child's face was open and trusting. The dog's was not, and Polly was relieved. Children needed bodyguards."On the face of it, Polly's just another mother who worries too much and reads too much into innocent scenes. But she's not. She's lived in a world of predators and survived. She knows exactly what's out there that she needs to be prepared for. Her children will not have to face what she did, that is, if Polly has the least say about it.If you haven't read too many books about the twisted minds of killers (like I have), 13½ should make you jump at each creak of a floorboard or pop of an attic beam. And Polly is one character who should not be missed.
BookishDame on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Oh, man! I really loved being scared to death reading this book! It think the link Ms Barr makes with well-known killers such as Scott Peterson, gave me an extra chill. It referenced for me that snake-dead-eye-evil psychopath that "13 1/2" describes so well.So as not to spoil the story, I will only tell you that this is the tale of two boys whose parents are murdered in a bloodbath by one of the boys. Following that a son is taken to jail, then to a mental hospital/prison, there are horrific things that happen...life evolves and we have a mystery to solve that is just seeping terror at the seams.Not Nevada's ordinary murder mystery, and I'm glad because I'm not really a fan of her ordinary fare. If she writes more like this one...I'm going to be an avid reader of her books!!I recommend this to all who like Jeffrey Deaver, Dennis Lehane, and such authors, without reservation.
kqueue on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm a big fan of Barr's Anna Pigeon series, but found this work a little disappointing. I found it rather predictable and saw the outcome long before it was revealed. I did enjoy the character of Polly and thought she was very believable and likable.
bookappeal on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A young girl escapes her trailer trash mother and ends up in New Orleans. An 11-year-old boy kills his parents and sister and his older brother sticks up for him. When the younger brother is finally released from juvenile detention into his brother's custody, they try to start over in New Orleans. The girl, Polly, meets a man named Marshall who is very close to his older brother, Danny. You guessed it - Marshall and Dylan are The Butcher Boy and his brother and Polly and her two daughters are in danger. Unfortunately, the way the novel is constructed, the reader knows the author is being purposely vague and trying to lead the reader to believe one thing so that she can spring a twist at the end. The ending is not much of a surprise but at least Barr's plot twist is adequately explained. The final "scene" adds a unique finishing touch to a subplot that runs most of the length of the book. Contains depictions of graphic violence and profanity.
mpontius on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was eager to read this because I enjoy the Anna Pigeon books so much. Was very disappointed. Complicated far-out, stupid story. Barr should stick with the National Parks.
julyso on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is about two brothers, one of whom kills their entire family and is known as "butcher boy". Marshall is incarcerated at age eleven and when he gets out his brother, Danny, has their family home waiting for him. Marshall becomes a architect, falls in love, and marries Polly. Polly also has her own secrets. Danny becomes a pharmacist who provides Marshall with drugs for his migraines. This is just the beginning...I must say it....this is one of those books you wish you would have never read. I usually really like books by Nevada Barr, but this one is disappointing. The plot was pretty obvious fairly early in the book and it wasn't surprising or original. This book was really hard for me to finish and the characters are unbelievable and/or unlikeable. I actually liked the ending, however, but by that time I really didn't care!!!
kmaziarz on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When Polly Farmer was just 15, she escaped her alcoholic mother and a future that seemed to lead straight from one trailer park into another by running away to New Orleans. There, she was able to put together a life for herself, ending up many years later as a successful English professor, divorced with two daughters. One day in Jackson Square, she is approached by the handsome and charming Marshall Marchand, and there is an instant connection between the two. Neither has been in love before, really, and now both are head over heels. When Polly's two daughters find themselves taken with Marshall as well, and when Marshall tops everything off by heroically saving the three from a house-fire, Polly takes the plunge and marries him, despite the small amount of time they've known each other.But Marshall is hiding some dark secrets of his own. He's really Dylan Raines, who, as an 11-year-old, brutally ax-murdered his parents and baby sister--though he doesn't have any memory of having done so. Released early due to the tireless efforts of his older brother Richard, Dylan has moved to New Orleans, changed his name, and tried to put together a life for himself under the careful eye of Richard, now known as Danny.When Polly receives an ominous tarot card reading predicting that she will kill her own husband, the idyllic life she's imagined begins to fall apart. She finds the tarot reader murdered mere days later, and then discovers a cache of letters, journal entries, and newspaper clippings that seem to indicate Marshall is completely unbalanced and considering committing more brutal murders. Now Polly must fight to discover the truth about her new husband while protecting herself and her two girls against the evil that's entered their lives.Enjoyable, fast-paced, and quite intense, 13 1/2 is not a book you'll want to put down!