A North Carolina bluegrass picker himself, Bibey creates a warm novel that will endear readers to the popular music.
Bluegrass music fans will savor Dr. Tom Bibey’s first novel, The Mandolin Case, but all readers will enjoy this North Carolina tale of country doctors and honest lawyers. The colorful main character, Dr. Henry Jenkins, better known as Indie, is worth the read alone. Indie embodies that rare individual a few lucky people know well and the rest of us wish we knew: a good-natured, rural doctor who cares more about his patients than he does about money.
When Indie’s best friend, Blinky Wilson, dies under his care, not only must Indie mourn the loss of a buddy, but he must also defend his honor against a malpractice suit instigated by Wilson’s wife. Mrs. Wilson plots to destroy the good doctor, but Indie’s defense doesn’t require much effort. Almost the entire population of the fictitious Harvey County eagerly offers to help.
Half the fun of the novel is following the varied cast of characters as they rise to Indie’s aid. Readers will appreciate the sane and oddball alike — Dr. “Bones” Robertson, a close pal determined to clear Indie’s name, and Snooker, a hospital maintenance man and golf ringer who likes to compete for cheeseburgers.
Although the trial and tension heat up throughout the book, most of the characters in The Mandolin Case still find time to sneak off for bluegrass jam sessions where opposing sides shed their differences long enough to create their beloved, down-home music. A North Carolina bluegrass picker himself, Bibey creates a warm novel that will endear readers to the popular music even if it’s not their favorite fare.
Ford, Falcon & McNeil Publishers. 2010, 317 pages, paperback, $18.