A reluctant sheriff must contend with the discovery of one long-missing corpse and two new murders in this second installment of a four-volume series.
Gus Salt dreamed of becoming a writer until war erupted. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Harr County, North Carolina, police department needed recruits. Fifteen years later, he is still the sheriff, and the Levoy plantation is experiencing a sudden rash of untimely deaths. Gus’ sometime girlfriend, young Blossom Hall, is about to have her steamy first novel released by a staid Boston publishing house, and editor Kate Shaw has come to Levoy to confer with her new client. The two women stumble on the partially buried bones of Dr. Whittle, a disgraced Civil War Confederate soldier who killed seven prisoners he was supposed to be escorting to jail. Then local photographer Henry Slack is found shot in his car, and things are about to get even worse. The novel isn’t a traditional mystery—readers know who the killers are. The question is whether or not Gus will unearth the truth and bring the perpetrators to justice. The strength of the gently paced plotline rests in the gradual revelations of the guilty secrets, large and small, carried by a hefty ensemble cast. The magic comes from Brookhouse’s (A Pinch of Salt, 2017, etc.) evocative prose: “The air was full of the damp traces that linger in old Southern houses, the smell of paper and fabric and wood and all the artifacts bequeathed generation to generation.” He can capture the essence of a character with just a few words. Readers quickly understand the nature of Piney Nix even before meeting him; they learn that a small sign on his front door proclaims “Trade with the Klan.” But Gus remains an intriguing cipher. He has been introspective of late, but the author does not grant readers access to the sheriff’s thoughts. Gus is a man of few words—which makes the promised next installment even more enticing.
Beautifully written, sprinkled with sarcasm, and engrossing; ordinary people haunted by the past and coping with the present.