Members of an isolated Alaskan community make a stand against those who seem intent on seizing their land in Hoover’s debut thriller.
Augustin Stark envisioned the Homestead, which he founded, as an escape from modern society—a free community with no internet or phone service and little contact with the larger world. When he spots an unmarked helicopter passing by, it puts him on edge. While trekking to the nearest town, Harkstaff, for supplies, he and fellow Homesteaders find a wrecked SUV and one survivor, Franklin Summerset. He’s a senior vice president at Lockstone Oil who makes an offer to buy the Homestead land, but Stark assures him that it’s not for sale. However, Lockstone’s CEO then uses his Washington, D.C., connections to make a claim of eminent domain, aiming to simply take the land. Stark, a habitually armed former Marine, responds with threats and, later, an explosion only to be arrested later by FBI agents accusing him of domestic terrorism. Stark’s pal Andrew Russo wants to flee, but other Homesteaders, who are predominantly ex-Marines, plan to free Stark from federal confinement. As the feds prepare to raid the Homestead, everyone braces themselves for a bloody conflict; meanwhile, Stark suspects that some of the agents may not actually be with the FBI. Hoover develops tension by shrouding characters in ambivalence: Stark has a secret that isn’t immediately revealed; authorities are untrustworthy; and there’s betrayal lurking at the Homestead that’s unrelated to the main plot. Accordingly, readers may have trouble sympathizing with anyone, but the author wisely doesn’t champion either side. As the mystery plays out, answers gradually come to light, including who may be behind the attack against the Homestead. The action scenes, meanwhile, are more unsettling than exciting: “The sporadic popping of handguns was offset by the methodic boom of a not-too-distant high-powered rifle.” It’s a grim experience, overall, but it’s one that refuses to be disregarded or easily forgotten, particularly given its jaw-dropping ending.
A passionate, sometimes-brutal tale of violence begetting violence.