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In the Heat of the Night

(Virgil Tibbs #1)

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  1,730 ratings  ·  194 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
Kindle Edition
Published (first published 1965)
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James Thane
Feb 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-fiction
This is the novel upon which the movie In the Heat of the Night was based. Set in a small town in South Carolina in the early 1960s, the book opens with the discovery of a body lying in the highway late one night. The victim is a prominent musician who had been active in organizing a music festival which many hoped would revive the fading fortunes of the town. His death is thus a blow to the hopes of the entire community.

The police chief, a man named Gillespie, is new to the job. Previously a ja
Jun 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I give 4.5 stars to John Dudley Ball's In the Heat of the Night, which later became a movie starring Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger and also a tv series. Additionally, this short, classic detective book lead Ball to write a series of cases featuring lead homicide investigator Virgil Tibbs. This original book is highly regarded.

On his usual nightly patrolling, officer Sam Wood discovers a body in the middle of the highway in the heat of the night. Upon calling the case into chief Bill Gillespie,
Dec 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-fiction
One steamy night in 1960's South Carolina, a man is arrested for the crime of sitting and reading while black, though the official charge is suspicion of murder. Turns out, the suspect is actually a police officer who's been visiting his mother, and is now headed back to the far off land of Pasadena, California, a magical place where "Negroes" are treated like human beings, and not animals.

. . .it may be hard for you to believe, but there are places in this country where a colored man, to use y
Connie G
Penguin released a 50th Anniversary Edition of the police procedural "In the Heat of the Night" last year. It's a good mystery, but it's even better known for its social criticism in a time of racial unrest following the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

A police officer, Sam Woods, finds a body in the road when he's on night patrol in Wells, South Carolina. The new police chief, Bill Gillespie, sends Sam out to find the perpetrator of the crime. He arrests Virgil Tibbs at the train station because he's a b
Flashback to 1960 and the horrible reality of Jim Crow. The dignity of Mr. Tibbs and the way he handles the slurs and injustice are at the heart of this novel, and Ball makes Tibbs the most intelligent and able character in the book. He goes a little overboard in drawing the distinctions between the Southern characters and Virgil Tibbs, but he has an important point to make and he makes it If you are ever doubting that race relations have made enormous progress in the last 50 years, read this bo ...more
RJ from the LBC
Dec 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: edgar-award
"They call me Mr. Tibbs."
- Virgil Tibbs

In the celebrated film version the line is delivered with an exclamation point, but in the book Tibbs is less fiery, more matter-of-fact, with keenly developed intellect and, we suspect, a wry sense of humor. Outwitting redneck lawmen and bigoted citizens in 1960s South Carolina isn't enough for Tibbs; he calmly resets racial expectations and attitudes on both sides of the tracks. The mystery plays out differently in the book than in the film, but in both
S.P. Aruna
May 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thriller-mystery
I've seen several less than positive reviews of this book written by those who were disappointed in the character of Virgil Tibbs after having seen the film. Like my review of the The Choirboys I'll make comparisons between the two towards the end.

This is a great crime novel, more than a crime novel, but a study of human relations in the context of race, an aspect that is handled with poignant delicacy. Unlike the movie, the relationship between African-American detective Tibbs and southern whit
Bill Lynas
Jul 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The 1967 film version of In The Heat Of The Night has long been a favourite of mine. It spawned two disappointing sequels, but that's often the way with films. There are noticeable differences between the book & the film, but both are equally compelling stories.
John Ball's 1967 novel starts brilliantly & never lets up. It's not only a fine crime story, it says a lot about bigotry & racism in America in the 1960s. There's great dialogue & excellent characterisation throughout. At only 158 pages i
To my mind the Virgil Tibbs in the novel didn't have quite the same presence or "weight" of Sidney Poitier in the movie. Virgil Tibbs in the novel seemed to be a more subdued presence, I was expecting more fire from his character.

Have wanted to read this novel for ages and have to admit being a shade disappointed because I had such high expectations. It is well written and the mystery component well delivered but it is the finely wrought characterisation between the amateur Chief of Police Gille
Maria Soares

A classic detective story from the 60's in South US, with the slight twist that the hero is a black man dealing with horrible racism both from his peers and suspects involved. A light and quick read that I'd recommend to any crime fan.

As someone who loves detective stories I really enjoyed this more classical-noir type. The blatant racism is very annoying but it's exactly how it happened back then, unfortunately.
Jul 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime, classics, 2019
“They call me Mr Tibbs.”

When night patrolman Sam Wood finds a dead man in the street, it’s quickly apparent the man has been murdered. It also transpires he’s a prominent person – Maestro Enrico Mantoli, a famous conductor who was organising a music festival in the town. The new police chief, Bill Gillespie, has never run a murder investigation before. In fact, he hasn’t much experiencing of policing at all – he was mainly hired because of his intimidating air of authority and his willingness to
Feb 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: b, 2014

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
Aug 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, thriller
Looking at this novel from a big picture standpoint, In the Heat of the Night seems to be much less about a murder investigation and mystery, much more about a character who must deal with prejudice and racial unrest in Wells, South Carolina.

The novel begins with an officer finding a man dead on one of the roads in the small Southern town of Wells. Virgil Tibbs, a black police investigator from Pasadena who is waiting for his train at the station, is arrested and accused. After Tibbs eventually
Sep 04, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
They call me Mister Tibbs! In the movie, that line is not only unforgettable, it sums up the entire movie. In the 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.

Dec 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great mystery. Wonderful description. A revealing look at the 1960s south. It reads almost like a blend of Harper Lee and Conan Doyle.
Mar 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 4-star
In the Heat of the Night is the story of Virgil Tibbs, a black homicide detective from California asked to investigate a murder in the deep South. John Ball doesn’t rely on easy stereotypes and his story provides a more thoughtful treatment of class and race. Tibbs is smart and tightly self-controlled. Sheriff Gillespie and his deputy Sam Woods both change in response to his competence and integrity... not dramatically, in incremental but significant ways that reflect how attitudes shift one or ...more
May 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
(A slightly edited review, on this, my second and most recent read.) 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 fine, as well, but not really the point. In addition to dealing with race in the south at the time he wrote, what Ball does is finely illustrate the flexibility of ...more
An excellent detective story as well as the social and racial criticism
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 con
Oct 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Virgil Tibbs is picked up at a railway station in a small southern town by a local police-officer, following the murder of a visiting orchestra conductor. When it emerges Tibbs is a Homicide detective on his way home to Pasadena after visiting his mother, an inexperienced Sheriff Gillespie reluctantly enlists Tibbs help to solve the murder.
Tibbs is up against deep seated racial & social prejudice, stymied at every turn, not only by the town's residents but by the police officers who are suppose
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

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
Jan 05, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Virgil Tibbs is a wonderful character. The Afro-American homicide detective passenger passing through the racially bigoted town of Wells. The new Chief of police has a homicide occur. Sam Woods another policeman finds the body and detains Tibbs. They find out he is a detectives and reluctantly use him to help solve the case. The author has captured the bigotry well and Tibbs is a methodical and observant detective.

A far fetched love story but aside from that a good story. I have gone to the loc
Apr 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Nov 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: x2018-19-season
The film has surpassed the novel, which is a shame. The book is a tight story with neither wasted scenes nor excessive misdirection, and the introduction by Ridley in this edition is both informative and explanatory without being excessively academic.
Jan 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Virgil Tibbs will go down in history as one of literature's most likable detectives. So glad I read this classic crime novel. But it is so much more than that as it speaks to an era in America's history of when blacks and whites just did not mix and especially down South. Mind you there is probably a lot in this book that is still very relevant today. I thoroughly enjoyed this read and mostly liked all the characters. I especially enjoyed watching Virgil test the boundaries and the results of hi ...more
David Highton
Feb 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My third selection from the Modern Classics display at the library - written in 1965 the endemic and embedded discrimination against black people in the South is brought out by the accomplished black detective Virgil Tibbs. I had not realised there were more Tibbs books, I will seek them out.
Beth Rodgers
May 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
'In the Heat of the Night' by John Ball engages interest early on and holds on to it throughout the course of the novel. Chief Bill Gillespie lives in the town of Wells and, despite his work as a police officer who has taken an oath to uphold the law, he still finds himself muddying the waters of how he feels regarding racism. The novel is set in the 1960s when integration had not yet hit parts of the South, and Gillespie finds himself unsure how to deal with a murder that took place in town whe ...more
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
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John Dudley Ball 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 an Oscar-winning film of the same n ...more

Other books in the series

Virgil Tibbs (7 books)
  • The Cool Cottontail
  • Johnny Get Your Gun
  • Five Pieces of Jade (Virgil Tibbs #4)
  • The Eyes of Buddha
  • Then Came Violence
  • Singapore (Virgil Tibbs, #7)

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