A man whose whole life has been colored by the excesses of his father’s execrable ministry tries to come to terms with his past.
Earl Marcus’ daddy, RJ, was a white Georgia mountain preacher, a snake handler who let no sin go unpunished, especially those of his rebellious 17-year-old son. RJ let Earl's sister die by refusing her a doctor, since only God could cure her, and stood by for five days after Earl was bitten by one of his cottonmouths, insisting that divine will would determine his life or death. After impregnating his brother’s girlfriend, Earl is blamed for her suicide. When he refuses to repent, his daddy disowns him, and he’s taken in by a loving black woman widely known as Granny. Years later, when Coulee County sheriff’s deputy Mary Hawkins writes to tell him that Granny, who is actually her grandmother, is dying, he takes time away from his job as a private investigator in North Carolina to spend time with her—a visit that brings him nightmares, releases repressed memories, and lands Mary and him in a truly dangerous situation. A letter from church member Bryant McCauley with a recently time-stamped photo of Earl's supposedly dead and buried father forces him to confront his past and his love/hate relationship with the man he calls Daddy. With McCauley missing, Earl sees that Coulee County hasn’t changed. The corrupt sheriff still hates him, blaming him for his daughter’s death, and Holy Flame, the cultlike church where his older brother, Lester, is now the preacher, seems to be controlled by their father from beyond the grave. In fact, many members, still believing RJ is alive, turn on Lester, who’s trying to make the church more mainstream. Earl uncovers unspeakable acts of violence against young female congregants. Joined by a few rebels and pariahs like himself, he fights his inner demons to discover the truth about his father and the evil machinations of misogynist church members.
You won’t put down this powerful and painful tale, the first in a planned series, until you’ve seen its unlikely hero explore all the avenues of love, hate, deception, and faith and unravel a gripping mystery.