A man’s past haunts the citizens of an isolated, rural Pacific Northwest town.
Ernie Luntz has been serving time in Walla Walla for murder and is now being transported by car to a medium security prison when the driver has a heart attack and the car crashes. Ernie escapes and heads for his hometown, Ash Falls. Read (The Lyncher in Me, 2008) meticulously weaves the gritty, hard-knock lives of many men and women from this impoverished, rural town in mountainous Washington into “tight little complicated knots.” It’s October, a “time of mud and muck and creeping molds,” of “gloom and regret.” A series of chapters, each titled after a different character (or sometimes two) and told in the third person with frequent flashbacks, are our signposts. Ernie’s wife, Bobbie, is a part-time nurse at the high school their son, Patrick, attends. He works at Tin Dorsay’s mink farm after school. He’s gay and likes Mama T’s son, Shadow. Hank Kelleher, who’s pushing 60, used to teach at the high school and now sells pot for medicinal purposes to neighbors. He and Bobbie might have had an affair. His sister, Lyla, is married to Jonas Henry. Their son, Eugene, Hank’s nephew, is married to Marcelle. The young couple lives in Eugene’s parents’ basement. Marcelle works as a housekeeper at the Sleep Inn run by Melvin White. Eugene works at Benny’s garage. Chapter by chapter we come to know these people, their struggles and fears. We learn that four years earlier Ricky Cordero said “something,” maybe directed at Patrick. Bobbie “couldn’t tell what.” Ernie, a Vietnam War vet who suffered from “demons” and had a “hair trigger temper,” beat Ricky to death. In this small town that “can’t keep its mouth shut,” word of Ernie’s escape looms like a threatening thundercloud over the forests and rivers.
A moody, haunting foray into rural Americana in the mold of Daniel Woodrell and Christian Kiefer.