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Reviewed by Karen Pirnot for Readers' Favorite
In the novel Old Main Burning, author Joe Woods has taken an actual event and written a fictional account of what could have happened. In January of 1959, a dormitory on the campus of Mississippi State University burned nearly to the ground. Inside the building which was called Old Main, investigators found a body. Subsequent investigation revealed that not only was the fire a likely product of arson, the fire-setting might have attempted to cover up a murder. Freshman Woody McKenzie is initially interviewed as a material witness and later, he becomes a prime suspect. Woody was a roommate of the victim and he was apparently the last person to see the victim alive.
I particularly liked what appeared to be the investigative reports of the event. I do wish the author had first clued in his readers as to what was fact and what was fiction. As the story proceeded, I began to see Woody as an extremely naïve individual who seemed to float along with whatever advantage came his way. Although the story itself was fascinating, the character development in general was lacking. Perhaps the best-developed character was that of Mitzi, a wealthy widow who was unknowingly involved in the history of Woody's family. Even though it was never disclosed in the book, the reader gets an underlying feeling of a woman who knows a lot more than she reveals. For readers liking to speculate on historical events, this book will be appealing. Although not highly sophisticated in his writing, author Joe Woods gives the reader some provocative thoughts in Old Main Burning.