A Nursery Rhyme Of Vengeance

Donna Tartt is back with a chilling tale of childhood

Harriet Cleve Dufresnes, the 12-year-old heroine of Donna Tartt's The Little Friend, is a bookish girl in small-town Mississippi in the early '70s. So was Tartt. Harriet has dark bobbed hair and an intense stare that unnerves other children and even grownups. Look at Tartt's photo, and compare for yourself. And--not unlike an author gestating a Gothic suspense novel--Harriet is patiently hatching a terrible and ominous plan.

For Tartt, "patiently" is the operative word. As the precocious 28-year-old author of 1992's The Secret History, about a murder by a clique of college intellectuals, she won rave reviews, media adulation and a...

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