Released today is Bouman's second: FATEFUL MORNINGS. The title is reflected repeatedly in Henry's discoveries among his neighbors, from wealthy to hardscrabble, as he follows a trail of addiction and related crimes, crossing the trail of a possible serial murderer -- one who must be both clever and deeply disturbed.
For Office Henry Farrell in Wild Thyme, Pennsylvania, there are few simple, or simply good, parts of life. Stranded in a small and politically challenging job due to his own past failures, he's struggling to find some beauty anyway: in the forested landscape around him (riven by oil fracking though it is), and in the old-time music he plays with friends (he wanted to call their group the Fateful Mornings from an old tune, but they're the Country Slippers, a local joke about their boots). It's typical of Henry that he's also taking easy pleasure in an affair with a married woman -- a complication that will soon cripple his work, as well as his affections.
What makes this book -- all of Bouman's writing -- so memorable, beyond the cunning plot and painful portrait of this "Rust Belt" region, is the emotion invested in each scene. Take this simple moment of Henry gathering up (in the middle of tangled jurisdictions) a possible suspect who's reported a missing woman:
"Stand up, please." I patted him down, catching body odor that was sharp like cheese, sweet like bread or beer No weapon.Though the paths through FATEFUL MORNINGS are grim ones, the solid and often lovely writing and the irresistible characters make the book a compelling read. Don't expect an easy ending -- well, we're talking about the 21st-century equivalent of coal country here, aren't we? Even the land is hurting. And its people are in trouble.
"If she'd dead, I didn't kill her." ...
I put an arm on his shoulder and steered him to my vehicle.
On the drive to the sheriff's, I thought about my visit to their home that winter, and about their history. You show up to a domestic call expecting to see people still in the grip of the fight that got you called out, clawing, screaming. You come to somebody's defense, chances are they let you in on a punch or two. You're the person they hate more than each other. That January night when I had pulled up to the trailer off Dunleary, my blue lights dancing off the white woods, with Swales's house barely visible through the tree trunks, it was quiet. I knocked and stepped inside. The first thing O'Keefe asked me was to turn off my lights to the landlord wouldn't know I'd been called.
... Neither spoke as I stomped snow off my boots and ducked inside. The only signs of struggle were Penelope's flaring nostrils, a butcher's knife in front of her on the table, and bloody paper towels wrapped around O'Keefe's hand.
Which means it's a good thing that all-too-human Henry Farrell is stuck in Wild Thyme, trying to hold a crippled sort of peace.
PS: Looking for more mystery reviews, from cozy to very dark? Browse the Kingdom Books mysteries review blog here.
PPS: There are good parallels between this series and Julia Keller's West Virginia crime series. Click here to look at some Keller reviews.