Private investigator Earl Marcus thought he had battled every evil hidden in the North Georgia mountains, but when his girlfriend goes missing, he finds a level of depravity that surprises even him.
Having tackled his father's fundamentalist church, exposed child abusers, and been bitten by a poisonous snake in Early's debut (Heaven's Crooked Finger, 2017), Earl has more than earned some peaceful time with his love, Atlanta police officer Mary Hawkins. Urged, however, by Ronnie, a sketchy friend of Earl's, to investigate mysterious doings at a mazelike cornfield, Earl and Mary become disoriented, and suddenly Mary disappears. It doesn't take long for the plot to involve corrupt politicians, criminals, and legends of a racist stalker named Old Nathaniel, who may have captured Mary because she's African-American. Earl calls up the few friends he can trust, including a blind man named Rufus and Ronnie, whose poor choices in life are balanced by his unswerving loyalty to Earl. If this were the sort of story you'd subject to logic, you might also think Earl would involve Mary's professional cop colleagues, but then he wouldn't have a reason to go around the mountains beating people up, getting shot and stabbed—and besides, he's the one who loves Mary. Earl, who narrates the story, interrupts the already pedestrian prose too frequently to muse on everything from the nature of love to the meaning of dreams.
Early's hero is a nice guy who certainly means well, but only those readers interested in further exploring mountain tropes will want to follow him on his next adventure.