“Candlemoth” by R.J. Ellory / Reviewed by Clay Stafford

Candlemoth by R.J. Ellory

“Candlemoth” was R.J. Ellory’s first novel, published in 2003 in the U.K. This is its first release in the United States.  Since originally publishing “Candlemoth,” Ellory has gone on to become an international bestseller.

“Candlemoth” is set in the American South, which is an interesting choice for a debut novel from an Englishman.  Ellory did his research weaving the story of death-row convict Daniel Ford with the events that have taken place over the past 50 turbulent years in the U.S.  From reading the book, I’d say Ellory probably knows more about American history than most Americans.

History, though, is not what the story is about. It’s about Ford’s death-row conviction related to the death of Ford’s best friend, Nathan. With the execution date only 30 days away, Ford begins to relive how he got to where he was. It is a story of friendship, betrayal, prejudice, and coming of age.  It is a story of murder and the meaning of justice. The central question I had running throughout, of course, was more personal: did Ford really brutally behead his best friend Nathan or was something going to twist in the end? You’ll have to wait until the very end for that answer.

What I loved best about “Candlemoth” is how everything ties together. Historical references are made for which there seems to be no relation to the story, conspiracy theories are introduced that, while interesting, don’t seem to have anything to do with anything.  And then, it all blends together and makes sense in a story that is tight, suspenseful, and – most importantly – human. This book is a great start for what has already become a brilliant career.
Clay Stafford
– Clay Stafford is an author / filmmaker (www.ClayStafford.com) and founder of Killer Nashville (www.killernashville.com). He reviews books daily for Killer Nashville’s Book of the Day. Publishers Weekly has named Stafford and Killer Nashville as one of the top 10 Nashville literary leaders playing “an essential role in defining which books become bestsellers” not only in middle-Tennessee, but also extending “beyond the city limits and into the nation’s book culture.”  (PW 6/10/13)  Having over 1.5 million copies of his own books in print, Stafford’s latest projects are the feature documentary “One of the Miracles” (www.oneofthemiracles.com) and the music CD “XO” (www.jefferdeaverxomusic.com).

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