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by Alex McGlothlin

Publisher: Manuscript

In this novel, a disenchanted man discovers he can go home again—but will he face a killer there?

McGlothlin introduces readers to John Kelton. Not ready to enter the family lumber business, John becomes a teacher in North Carolina. But after his father, Marvin, dies in a hunting accident, John heads home to Watauga, Tennessee. Also returning is his status-driven older brother, Mark, who has been estranged from their father. While John inherited Marvin’s liquid assets, Mark inherited 90% of the timber company. A local coal company with a questionable reputation has made an above-value offer for the business, and Mark is eager to accept and leave town. But John resolves to find a way to buy out Mark and preserve the local economy. His only ally is Elisa Endrizzi, a pretty broker helping him to raise the needed capital. John also finds his father’s death to be suspicious, but he can’t get anyone to believe him, starting with the local sheriff. The harder John pushes, the more he gets trapped in a conspiracy. At one point, he is jailed as a suspect in the death of his father’s flaky girlfriend. But John is determined to solve the mystery of Marvin’s death while simultaneously saving his family’s legacy and staying alive. In this complex mystery, McGlothlin successfully plays long-term corporate responsibility against short-term greed. Although no business executive, John wants to assist those living in his hometown while others profiting from the timber company, initially including his brother, are less concerned with the residents’ fates. John doesn’t help himself by throwing around half-cocked accusations, making enemies of those whose aid he might need. He quickly becomes the boy who cried wolf. But by kicking over every rock, he may eventually get to the truth. Unfortunately, none of the secondary characters are as well drawn as John, Elisa, and Mark. But McGlothlin skillfully muddies the waters with many suspects benefitting from Marvin’s death, which in part results in John’s scorched-earth approach. The story’s biggest drawback is that the true culprit becomes apparent far too soon. Still, the author’s fast-paced narrative makes this taut tale a quick, enjoyable read.

This agile thriller makes doing the right thing both nerve-wracking and exciting.