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In the Heat of the Night
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In the Heat of the Night (Virgil Tibbs #1)

3.66 of 5 stars 3.66  ·  rating details  ·  812 ratings  ·  80 reviews
It's the 1960s. A hot August night lies heavy over the Carolinas. The corpse -- legs sprawled, stomach down on the concrete pavement, arms above the head -- brings the patrol car to a halt. The local police pick up a black stranger named Virgil Tibbs, only to discover that their most likely suspect is a homicide detective from California -- and the racially tense community ...more
Paperback, 7th Printing, 152 pages
Published July 1967 by Bantam (first published 1965)
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Col
Synopsis/blurb.........

John Ball's 1965 mystery In the Heat of the Night tells the story of a black police officer named Virgil Tibbs who happens to be passing through a southern town at a particularly inauspicious moment. An orchestra conductor has been brutally murdered and the local police, without much in the way of real evidence, arrest Tibbs. On discovering that Tibbs is not the real killer but rather a highly-skilled homicide detective, the local police enlist Tibbs to help solve the case
...more
Jessica-Robyn
In The Heat of the Night is not the kind of book that I would have ever considered picking up for my own casual reading pile. However, when this book was introduced to me as assigned reading for a Grade 9 English novel study I was trilled. This is the first book assigned to me that I have truly enjoyed reading. Maybe it was because the novel didn't take 200 pages for someone to die terribly, or maybe it was the fact that when writing up those cookie cutter study questions, this book actually gav ...more
Kayla
IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT by John Ball

I loved this book. Not only did I very much enjoy the character of Virgil Tibbs - he really makes this story shine, but the entire suspense of the crime was awesome. It kept my interest and had me intrigued from cover to cover trying to guess the outcome; it did not fail to impress. It's a great "whodunit" and so much more. This book was definitely an enjoyable read, it's short but it packs a punch. I recommend it. :)

"In a little while the daylight would come
...more
Ed
I saw the 1967 movie starring Sydney Poitier and Rod Steiger some time ago, but the movie is, IIRC, pretty faithful to the novel. I enjoyed reading it. Some of the racial prejudice seen in the small North Carolina city of Wells may seem a little dated, but I can remember it only too well. Virgil Tibbs a homicide cop who hails from Pasadena, CA, reminds me of Easy Rawlins also from CA. The identity of the killer had me fooled, so the mystery part is also solid. A fast read of a short novel, it mi ...more
L
We all know the story, even if we never read the book, having seen the movie. In fact, it was hard to read the book without seeing the actors. Ball's treatment of the racial tensions is tremendous, of course. That is the reason to read the book. The mystery itself is ok, but not really the point.
Bernard Norcott-mahany
This book was quite different from the film starring Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger. For starters, the size of the two men (Virgil Tibbs and Chief Bill Gillespie) is reversed. Steiger was around 5'10" but Gillespie is 6'4" in the book. His size is commented on at several points, and his size allows him to physically dominate and intimidate others in the book. In the film, it is Steiger's screen presence that works the magic. Poitier is 6'3" or so, but Virgil Tibbs is 5'9". In addition, his perso ...more
Pamela
They call me Mister Tibbs! In the movie, that line is not only unforgettable, it sums up the entire movie. In the book...it is thrown away. It doesn't even come at the end of a chapter. That being said, the book is nothing to be taken lightly.

Book Virgil isn't as defiant as Movie Virgil, but the way he walks the tightrope between accepted and unaccepted behavior is riveting.

Book Sheriff is less overbearing and more vulnerable than Movie Sheriff, and this can, at times, be a good thing.

Best of
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N. Jr.
This novel is more than a great mystery/crime story (it won the Edgar Award for Best First Mystery) but an excellent character study, something that doesn't stand out so strongly in the film (although brilliant with two superb actors, Poitier and Steiger).

Running parallel with the mystery plot, is the development of the relationship between out-of-town detective Virgil Tibbs and patrolman Sam Wood. For those who have seen the film, Wood was merely a secondary character serving the plot line, whi
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Roger
RATING: 4.0 out of 5.0 rounded to 4.0

SUMMARY: The book is the basis for a very famous movie. Written in 1965, Virgil Tibbs is a homicide specialist from California. While passing through a small Southern town, he is pulled in to investigate the death of a famous conductor. The catch is Virgil is black and the town is in the heart of the segregation era.

COMMENTS: I thought I had read this book as a teenager, but either I've reached the age where I forget details or I only saw the movie.

I was surp
...more
Marj
This book was published in 1965, and a movie and television series was based on it. I'd seen some of the television series, and enjoyed it, so when I found this book I wanted to read it and compare it with the series.

Wow, totally not the same. There are some of the same characters--at least with the same names, but different personalities and values. And the book takes place in Wells, South Carolina, while the T.V. program takes place in Sparta, Mississippi, and represents the attitudes of the 1
...more
Ryan
Easy to read and had the expected racial attitudes - murder, African American male alone at the train station, white chief of police, southern town. I wondered if African American's still feel the need to be as polite and submissive in certain situations, wondered if women have their own situations where they behave a certain way simply as part of societal survival. And how much of that behavior is just old survival skill - how much we could shed if we knew we could. I suppose we all do though p ...more
Randy
A classic, this is my second reading. I think of it as a metaphor for the changing attitudes of this country on race. Two characters over the course of the book come to reflect on their views and begin to change, one more so, just from working with the black Virgil Tibbs. That's all it takes, being around folks enough one starts to realize there is more similarity than difference.
Sean Brennan
Although an enjoyable it is definitely not the masterpiece that the movie became. The characters of Virgil Tibbs and the Police Chief Gillespie only show a passing resemblance to Steiger and Poitier and for me there lies the trouble, the barely suppressed anger and resentment is sadly missing, and the handshake at the end just a little too trite for my liking. The whole notion of the Black investigator in a white world was done far better by Ed Lacy in Room to Swing almost a decade earlier.

For a
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Joshua
A well written murder mystery that explores without solving the mystery of racism and prejudice. Mr. Tibbs is an excellently self-controlled and intelligent character who lets himself play to racial stereotypes and stays inside the lines drawn for him because that lets him be in control of his situation. I can only imagine this book is read very differently based on the individual and cultural attitudes of the reader toward race; it seems like it very carefully and deliberately pushes buttons fo ...more
Robert Palmer
Just about everyone that I know has seen the movie" in the heat of the night". I never even knew that it had been adapted from from a novel. After reading the novel I knew that I would have given it 4 stars no matter when it was written. In all honesty I have to say that the movie was even better, but it still took a late of nerve to even get the book published in 1965. Today younger people reading the book might wonder what all the fuss was about, but in 1965 the idea of a black policeman in th ...more
Candy
I was really looking forward to discussing this book tonight at our mystery readers book discussion, but the library has no power (and we have no discussion). I haven't seen the movie, but I can easily picture Sidney Poitier as Tibbs and Rod Steiger as the chief. I thought it read well although the racial slurs made me uncomfortable.What interests me most is that first, Ball is white. And secondly, I'd be curious how someone writing today of that period (1960s in the South) would portray the sam ...more
HBalikov
Competently written thriller/mystery that reflects the racial attitudes of many in Southern states at the time. For those who saw the movie with Rod Steiger and Sidney Poitier, there are some changes but the general plot is the same. Virgil Tibbs, an investigator for Pasadena, California, finds himself inadvertently "captured" into a murder investigation. His skills far outshine the local cops, but will he be able to get the murderer and get himself out of town before being attacked for his "upp ...more
Celia Barry
A body is found sprawled on the pavement in the middle of a street on an unbearably hot night.

This book was lots of fun. Written in the 1960s about a small town in Mississippi, racism plays a starring role in a murder mystery. A black homicide detective (Tibbs) from Pasadena passing through town on a train becomes first the prime suspect in the murder and then the only person competent enough to find the real killer. Gillespie is the new chief of police and while he's a big man and full of blus
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John Aubrey
The best stories about race really aren't about race, but of loneliness. Man is without doubt the most successful heard animal on the planet. Just having a super sized brain can't accord for such global dominance. Using the power of that brain to communicate the lessons of failures and record victories does.

In The Heat of the Night is not a book about black and white relations in the South. Rather it is a story about two isolated men, one who happens to be black, the other white. White local pol
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Michael Lott


This is a wonderful mystery rated on almost all 100 best mysteries near the top. Written in 1965 in a small town in a southern state it captures the feelings at that time, from separation of restaurants, bathrooms etc. the prejudice of white mates, especially lower socio-economic, is seen at its worst. A black detective, who just happens to be in this town when a murder is committed, quickly moves from accused to the exprt in solving the crime( he is a murder investigator in LA and is helping a
...more
Jacob
December 2008

A murder occurs in a small Southern town of Wells, and the first suspect, a black man who just happens to be in the wrong place (the town of Wells) at the wrong time (after the body is found), turns out to be Virgil Tibbs, a homicide investigater from California. It's a small embarrassment for the police that's made only worse when the friends and family of the murder victim request his help to catch the killer. Virgil Tibbs is just the man Wells needs, but definitely not the man po
...more
Sherry Chandler
It's hard for me to put myself back in 1965 when this novel was first published. Goodreads doesn't even list the edition I checked out of the library, It was published by Harper & Row, a slim 184-page volume (as mysteries were slim back then), covered in finger prints, its binding loose, its back cracked. Obviously a book that has seen many readers. Obviously a book that broke barriers.

I read it out of curiosity, having just re-watched the movie. I wanted to compare. What I found is that the
...more
Raja99
A quite entertaining, though not necessarily very ambitious, murder mystery. It is quite different from the Academy-Award-winning movie; for once, I prefer the movie.

The book is set in Wells, MS, and deals with the death of Maestro Mantolli, an Italian conductor who wants to set up a music festival in Wells. He is survived by his beautiful daughter Duena. Tibbs is from Pasadena rather than Philadelphia, and is not the viewpoint character (that's mostly Sam Wood, who is quite sympathetic, with a
...more
Aggrey Sambay
This novel is more than a great thriller/mystery/crime story .Virgil, a black police detective/ an investigator for Pasadena, California, finds himself inadvertently "captured" into a murder investigation in a racist small town in Mississippi after he was wrongly arrested at a "non-colored station" during a night when A body is found sprawled. His skills far outshine the local white cops and he be able to get the murderer and get himself out of town before being attacked because of his skills an ...more
Wisewebwoman
Good for its time (1969). I'd seen the movie and loved it but wondered about the book and found it recently in a thrift store. The book is extremetly dated when it comes to asaults/rapes on women (i.e. good women vs sluts who deserve it) but expected for the time period. It covers a critical time of black hatred and intolerance in the deep south and all hell breaks loose when an educated negro detective from out of town is assigned to handle a local murder investigation.
Rita McDowell
Excellent Read!

I truly commend this author for a well written book that dared to shed the stark light of reality upon a subject that was "not spoken of"! This book should be required reading so never again will people be treated unfairly because of the color of their skin. While this book addressed discrimination due to race, religious believes, sexual orientation, language, etc. could just as easily been substituted as the including
Dale
After seeing the movie I was expecting much more

First published in 1965.

If you've seen Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger tear into one another in the movie version of this book you may be expecting a few more fireworks than this book delivers. Heck, even if all you know of the story is the TV show with Carrol O'Connor and Howard Rollins than you have already seen more fireworks than this book delivers. And why is that? Because in the book, Virgil Tibbs is a proud man but he often fails to show the
...more
Byron
Picked this up more or less for free, having never seen the multiple Oscar-winning film from the late '60s. Since then I had a look at some clips from the movie on YouTube and it looks like a total schlockfest. Worse, the slutty teenage girl character isn't nearly as, erm, well built as she is in the novel. If only they'd filmed the novel as it was written. Alas, it still would have been kinda schlocky. The part where the redneck sheriff and his deputy couldn't investigate a ham sandwich I can b ...more
Amanda
Not sure how well this one stands the test of time. The characters are barely three dimensional, the racial tension so strong that it's practically a character of its own. I will be interested to hear what my students think of this. Are they so far removed from this that they will need what I perceive as overkill to understand the race relations - or are race relations so different today that this will seem childish to them?
Jennifer
The setting is a quiet town in the South in the 1950s or 60s. Late one night a man is found dead in the middle of the road. The police chief orders his deputy to go to the railroad station to look for anyone suspicious. There he finds, in the colored waiting room, a young black man reading a book with a wallet full of cash. He is hauled to the police station. The suspect is Virgil Tibbs, a police detective from Pasadena, California. I loved Virgil's character from the moment he speaks because he ...more
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Is Virgil Tibbs a Modern Sherlock Holmes? 2 4 Nov 14, 2014 04:41PM  
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John Dudley Ball (July 8, 1911 – October 15, 1988), writing as John Ball, was an American writer best known for mystery novels involving the African-American police detective Virgil Tibbs. He was introduced in the 1965 In the Heat of the Night where he solves a murder in a racist Southern small town. It won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel from the Mystery Writers of America and was made into ...more
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