Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: A Savannah Story” as Want to Read:
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: A Savannah Story
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: A Savannah Story

3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  139,068 ratings  ·  5,246 reviews
Shots rang out in Savannah's grandest mansion in the misty,early morning hours of May 2, 1981. Was it murder or self-defense? For nearly a decade, the shooting and its aftermath reverberated throughout this hauntingly beautiful city of moss-hung oaks and shaded squares. John Berendt's sharply observed, suspenseful, and witty narrative reads like a thoroughly engrossing nov ...more
Paperback, 386 pages
Published June 28th 1999 by Vintage (first published 1994)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Andrea It's a little odd that you are more concerned about your 16-year-old reading about drag queens than about murder.

It's a little odd that you are more concerned about your 16-year-old reading about drag queens than about murder.

Charles I went to Savannah with my (late) partner of 13 years, back in 2008. Because of his health, we only managed the local bus tour of the city. We also…moreI went to Savannah with my (late) partner of 13 years, back in 2008. Because of his health, we only managed the local bus tour of the city. We also found, went to, and spent a LOT of money at 'The Book' store. I bought my 'signed' copy of this book there.

Overall, the book is so much better than the movie - though the movie is well portrayed and is filmed on location in Savannah.

Agreed - I want to go back and spend more time there to do the tour, both of the Mercer House and the district in general.(less)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg LarssonAnd Then There Were None by Agatha ChristieAngels & Demons by Dan BrownRebecca by Daphne du MaurierIn Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Best Crime & Mystery Books
22nd out of 4,998 books — 11,165 voters
The Hunger Games by Suzanne CollinsHarry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. RowlingTo Kill a Mockingbird by Harper LeeTwilight by Stephenie MeyerPride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Best Books Ever
396th out of 39,420 books — 146,982 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Note, February 2014: I was just rereading this review, and FUNNY STORY, I moved to a small town. Not so much a big city person as I had originally thought...

Original review, circa 2007: I love this book to the point where I don't even really know what to say about it, because nothing I can say about it will be good enough to explain just how incredible this book really is.

After reading this book, I had to restrain myself from booking a flight to Savannah. It makes you want to be there, it makes
mark monday
this book has a lot of fans. that makes some sense. magazines are certainly very popular, and this is magazine writing at its most polished. Berendt knows how to create an atmosphere. he knows how to describe things in a style that is careful, subtle, and enfused with a deadpan but rather mischievious irony. he can certainly describe the way a rich man's house looks - so well that you could then describe it to someone else as if you've been there. characters are sketched with an expert's hand - ...more
Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
BkC7)Delicious, shimmering prose. Wonderful story. Savannah really should give Mr. Berendt a pension.

Well now, I have to dim my searchlight to a streetlight. Still think it's good but now, well, now I can't see past the one-hit-wonderness to the glories I once took for granted.

Rating: 3.75* of five

The Publisher Says: Shots rang out in Savannah's grandest mansion in the misty,early morning hours of May 2, 1981. Was it murder or self-defense? For nearly a decade, the shooting and its aftermath rev
Hunger For Knowledge
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is beautifully and enchantingly descriptive story written of the Georgia's oldest city, Savannah. When I dove into this read, I was expecting well-written true crime story but what I eventually got was something much more, and much more better.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is a heartfelt look at one of the most beautiful city in the world, and its colorful and peculiar citizens. It was nearly impossible for me not to lose my heart to this city a
There was a lot of hype around this book a few years back, but in this case I think it is actually deserved. For one, Berendt is a skilled writer who understands how to tease a compelling story out of the material he’s working with. And, oh, what material! The true-crime mystery at the center of the book—whether the social-climbing, closeted gay antiques dealer shot his lover in cold blood or self-defense—is interesting enough, but Berendt decorates that story with outrageous character portraits ...more
Dec 04, 2013 Adam rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of the film
This was a decent book. There was a lot of mood, of which I'm a big fan. The characters all had the potential to be very interesting, but unfortuately, they weren't developed. That's not to say you don't spend a lot of time with them, or find out anything about them, it's just that you don't really give a damn.

The book is written by a magazine journalist who ends up living on and off in Savanah, GA for eight years to investigate and chronicle a murder and it's trials. This book is more or less
Sep 01, 2013 Amanda rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Amanda by: Chris Brewer
Murder, gullah, drag queens (these are a few of my favorite things . . .) There's probably not much I can say about this book that hasn't already been said, but that won't stop me. I saw the movie when it first came out and loved it, but just never got around to reading the book. I thought that the entire book would be about the murder trial of Jim Williams, the prominent Savannah antiques dealer accused of murdering Danny Hansford (with whom it was rumored he was having a sexual relationship). ...more
Jess ❈Harbinger of Blood-Soaked Rainbows❈
3.5 stars rounded up to 4

B is for Berendt

Read a book with antonyms in the title

So I just realized that I totally forgot to review this one.....idiot moment #85749

For me, Savannah's resistance to change was its saving grace. The city looked inward, sealed of from the noises and distractions of the world at large. It grew inward, too, and in such a way that its people flourished like hothouse plants tended by an indulgent gardner. The ordinary became extraordinary. Eccentrics thrived. Every nuanc
"Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" is ostensibly about the macabre truths that lie behind Savannah's gentile facade. As you might expect, these are of a distinctly Gothic nature. Imagine a travel guide written by Tennessee Williams. We are invited to marvel at some familiar grotesques: the homosexual in a smoking jacket, the socialite drunk at noon, the young hustler with a Red Camaro, the outrageous trannie, the witch doctor. All of this is presented with a light touch, even as the parad ...more
"An idea was beginning to take shape in my mind, a variation of my city-hopping weekends. I would make Savannah my second home. I would spend perhaps a month at a time in Savannah, long enough to become more than a tourist if not quite a full-fledged resident. I would inquire, observe, and poke around wherever my curiosity led me or wherever I was invited. I would presume nothing. I would take notes.
Over a period of eight years I did just that, except that my stays in Savannah became longer and
Tea Jovanović
Ova knjiga je jedan od meni najdražih prevoda, i žao mi je što film nije pomogao knjizi... Naime, knjiga obiluje živopisnim likovima, a Klint Istvud je u svom filmu samo načeo te likove, a nijednog nije u potpunosti prikazao... Ono što je posebno interesantno u vezi s ovom knjigom jeste to da je ona potpuno promenila život učmale Savane u Džordžiji... Gradić koji ne voli promene, koji ne voli savremene tekovine, odjednom se našao pod najezdom turista koji su se tu sjatili posle čitanja ove knjig ...more
Stacia (the 2010 club)
It's the weekend and I'm too lazy to give a proper review.

In a nutshell : I loved the gorgeous (really, it was) writing and detailed descriptions of Savannah and its people.

It took too long for much of anything to happen though.

I might add more to this review later...and I might not.
Although I enjoyed it, I think this book could have been much better. The first half is largely a series of character studies, and the second half is essentially a true-life crime novel. Unfortunately I grew dangerously bored with the first half, and as the mystery unfolds, I grew annoyed that many of the characters introduced in the first half really have little play or impact on the rest of the book. The murder mystery itself is an interesting story but is very anticlimactic. While the book is ...more
Deborah Edwards
If you can read this book and not want to immediately hop a plane to Savannah, Georgia, then I do not know what to say to you. I read this book several years ago (and even remember reading a huge chunk of it in the laundromat and another huge chunk of it outside the same laundromat, which had closed up but I could not stop reading), because it was pretty much surgically attached to my hand the entire time. Berendt brought these eccentrics to life in a way that made the entire culture mesmerizing ...more
I just couldn't put this down. Berendt did a magnificent job in bringing these real life people to the page in a memorable and entertaining way.
One of my favorite scenes includes the cross dresser who works in the hardware store. His employer disapproves of his wearing "makeup" while working, so he only makes up one half of his face, and then spends his working days at the store turning his head, so customers and his employer won't see the "makeup". To think this is a true story. I can't wait
Dec 30, 2011 Laura rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Bettie, Chrissie
Recommended to Laura by: Dawn
Just arrived from Finland through BM.

What a pity this book ended. I must find a way to visit this beautiful city of Savannah.

The story is about the trial of Jim Williams, a Savannah's socialite and an international antiques dealer, crazy by the famous Faberge eggs, which was accused of the murder of Danny Handsford.

After had discovered that a super-saver fare to Savannah cost the same as an entree in a Manhattan restaurant, the author spent eight years fitting between these two cities. In this
Lucinda Reed
I chose this book for the title and the fact that I love Savannah. As a former Georgia peach, I think the story works because it is told from the view of an outsider, and because the cast of characters is quite an interesting ensemble.While each new character introduced is appealing enough to catch your eye, he doesn't go into too much detail to detract from the main story or main characters.

The descriptions of the place and the people and even the food are detailed enough to give the reader a
Thomas Strömquist
John Berendt's well-known (non-)fiction work is the story of a murder. But it really isn't, it is actually more of a masterfully told story about a number of people in Savannah and the place itself. I just love this author's narrative and the first time I read the book I did it in a couple of long sittings, due to the fact that I couldn't bring myself to put it down. If you for some reason would not want to invest the time in this book, watch the great (and sadly underrated) movie! Then read the ...more
I really enjoyed this!
Fascinating. Characters include: lawyer-gone-rogue, business man turned murderer, voodoo priestess, drag queen. Plot includes: a famous murder, debutante ball, high tea with ladies of high society, afternoon-Gatsby-like-parties, etc.

You would think this was fiction. That, it is not. This is narrative nonfiction.

Perhaps John Berendt's previous role as editor of New York Magazine made it easier to get full confessions from people who committed crimes, made lawyers want to discuss their legal stra
I read this years ago but I'm going to rate it now since it is likely I won't reread it( and it just popped up on my GR page). I have vacationed in Savannah and its a lovely place. I live in a historic home so I enjoyed all the home tours and history. I had the chance to see the statue on the book cover. The book had just been released so it was all the rage there of course. Another one of the books where I enjoyed being swept up in the swirl of hype more than the actual book. 3 stars
Tabby Kat
Shots rang out in Savannah's grandest mansion in the misty, early morning hours of May 2, 1981. Was it murder or self-defense? For nearly a decade, the shooting and its aftermath reverberated throughout this hauntingly beautiful city of moss-hung oaks and shaded squares. John Berendt's sharply observed, suspenseful, and witty narrative reads like a thoroughly engrossing novel, and yet it is a work of nonfiction. Berendt skillfully interweaves a hugely entertaining first-person account of life in ...more
This is one of my favorite books and inspired my first visit to Savannah. The characters are fantasy come to life and the lush descriptions of the city make you want to experience all this spooky historic city has to offer. The book is losely based on the murder of Danny Hansford by the eccentric self made art dealer Jim Williams. But it is the supporting characters such as The Lady Chablis that make this story what it is. The famous cover of the bird-girl statue taken in Bonaventure Cemetery is ...more
I loved the first couple of chapters, but the enchantment wore off quickly. It should be much better than it is -- the setting is perfect, the characters are intriguing, there's a real-life murder mystery at the center. But somehow even with all these things going for it, it still manages to be just ok.

I think it comes down to basic issues of voice and structure. Berendt can't seem to decide whether he wants to be an objective observer or an actual participant in the events he chronicles, and g
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Feb 13, 2013 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Lovers of Creative Non-fiction
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: Ultimate Reading List - True Crime
I tried this book because it was recommended in the Ultimate Reading List under the True Crime section, and it was found in the True Crime section of the bookstore and marked as non-fiction on the cover. But it's not non-fiction--there were hints of that not far into the book in fact. This is that bastard hybrid between fiction and non-fiction known as creative non-fiction, or "faction." Had I known that, I wouldn't have invested so much time in the book. I admit I like things tidier. Either cal ...more
Larry Bassett
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is a quirky book with quirky characters and quirky events. Some of it sounds like fiction but I am told that it is all true. For the sake of discussion, let us say it is nonfiction as claimed. This would then be a case where “Truth is stranger than fiction.”

A 1997 interview on Booknotes on C-Span shows author John Berendt to be almost as quirky as his book. He is entertaining and delightful to watch and listen to. If you want to treat yourself, go to http
Jackie "the Librarian"
I now know that when you go to Savannah, the first question I'll get asked is what I'd like to drink. If you go to Savannah, which I have (my drink of choice was iced tea), and you go to the cemetery pictured on the cover of the book (it's very mossy), the girl statue isn't there anymore. She's been moved to the museum, and if you want a picture of her, you have to buy a very expensive postcard. Sheesh! Nevermind, I have the book, I don't need the postcard...

Anyhow, you've probably already read
Not at all my sort of book. Purient peering into lives of weird people. When does it stray from fact to fantasy? Not at all, according to the author, though he has failed to resist the urge to change chronology in the interests of a good story - I wonder how that affects the impact of it? I don't just mean fantasy as the author might delve into. I mean a bunch of people befriend him knowing he is writing this book, knowing that he wants purient salacious information, knowing that this is their c ...more
Apr 30, 2009 Amy rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who really really love Savannah
A mostly true story, John Berendt writes about Savannah with an obvious and infectious love. The beginning section where he introduces many of the characters gets a little tedious with an abundance of people that are there to add spice but not substance. The second half drags with the monotony of four murder trials. Overall, it was a good read, but too much filler made you long for action. Take away this charming and mysterious old city, you're left with not much.

This isn't a film review, but K
Jul 02, 2008 Molly rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Asshole yankees that want to further enrich their uninformed cliche view of southerners.
A brief synopsis: "Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche Sex. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche Murder. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche"....oh wait, this is about where I stopped reading.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
  • Freedom Summer: The Savage Season That Made Mississippi Burn and Made America a Democracy
  • The Killer of Little Shepherds: A True Crime Story and the Birth of Forensic Science
  • The Stranger Beside Me: Ted Bundy The Shocking Inside Story
  • The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective
  • The Devil's Gentleman: Privilege, Poison, and the Trial That Ushered in the Twentieth Century
  • Mama Makes Up Her Mind and Other Dangers of Southern Living
  • Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders
  • The Jamestown Experiment: The Remarkable Story of the Enterprising Colony and the Unexpected Results That Shaped America
  • My Dark Places
  • The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation
  • Ballad of the Whiskey Robber: A True Story of Bank Heists, Ice Hockey, Transylvanian Pelt Smuggling, Moonlighting Detectives, and Broken Hearts
  • Columbine
  • Shot in the Heart
  • Dead Man Walking: The Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty That Sparked a National Debate
  • The Complete Jack the Ripper
  • The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession
  • For the Thrill of It
  • The Monster of Florence
The son of two writers, John Berendt grew up in Syracuse, New York. He earned a B.A. in English from Harvard University, where he worked on the staff of The Harvard Lampoon. After graduating in 1961, he moved to New York City to pursue a career in publishing. He was editor of New York magazine from 1977 to 1979, and wrote a monthly column for Esquire from 1982 to 1994.

Berendt first traveled to Sav
More about John Berendt...
The City of Falling Angels My Baby Blue Jays An Innocent Abroad: Life-changing Trips from 35 Great Writers (Lonely Planet Travel Literature) John Berendt's Savannah The Complete Adventures and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes: A Facsimile of the Original Strand Magazine Stories, 1891-1893

Share This Book

“Rule number one: Always stick around for one more drink. That's when things happen. That's when you find out everything you want to know.” 71 likes
“If you go to Atlanta, the first question people ask you is, "What's your business?" In Macon they ask, "Where do you go to church?" In Augusta they ask your grandmother's maiden name. But in Savannah the first question people ask you is "What would you like to drink?” 30 likes
More quotes…