“The Night The Lights Went Out” by Karen White is a play on the song, since the title continues “In Georgia.” This novel takes place in the suburbs of Atlanta. As with all her books, readers get a glimpse of the Southern culture where friendship is a major theme within a mystery.
The strength of the novel is the bond that forms between Sugar Prescott and Merilee Talbot Dunlop, both with formative secrets. Sugar, a woman in her 90s, is very crusty and represents how society used to be. This is contrasted with the modern day perspective that depends on technology for communication. White is one of those authors that writes such gripping characters readers become embedded with.
It is fun to see the generational differences between Merilee and Sugar. Heather is another character, representing the Southern, suburban housewife who plays tennis, drives an S.U.V., and has her children in a private school, with secrets of her own. Besides these characters, the blog writings are character-like with its southern words of wisdom that provide levity and frankness.
She does make fun of social media, noting, “I do make digs at Facebook and social media in my stories. I have to force myself to go on Facebook. I enjoy my fan page because I can talk about my dogs and books.
“Unfortunately, you cannot have a fan page without a personal page,” White said. “I cannot believe the things people post — they over share. I think we need to communicate directly to people. If you have something to tell me that is short then text, but anything bigger than five words, call me. What really upsets me is when I leave a voice mail and then someone calls me without listening to it, forcing me to repeat myself.”
The mystery comes into play when Dan, the husband of Heather and a friend of Merilee’s, is found lying face down in the lake. She becomes a person of interest since her past also includes other victims of drowning. The other sub-plot mystery is when a bloodstained jacket is found in a locker located in the basement of Merilee’s rented cottage.
“All my books are about a woman’s journey, finding her place in the world, and moving beyond a setback that many times includes a mystery,” White said. “The heart of my stories is following the main character to see if she gets out of some predicament. In this book, they have the kind of friendship that does not come with Facebook or texting. It comes from spending time with each other and getting to know one another.”
This story has friendship, family, betrayal, revenge, loyalty, and hope. Readers will laugh with the characters, while at other times will be on the edge of their seats. White is great at combining all these elements to make a gripping story with fascinating characters.