Super-speedy rereading occurring here in Okemos, as I endeavor to get all the nominees reviewed and ranked before the Wednesday evening Edgar banquet. I imagine all the authors (many crime fiction luminaries!) calming their respective tummy butterflies as the hours grow short. Next up: Wiley Cash‘s This Dark Road to Mercy.
Cash was unknown to me prior to this nomination. In fact, Dark Road is just his second novel. His debut, A Land More Kind than Home, is on my must-read-after-the-Edgars list. An Edgar nom for Best Novel on his second outing is quite an accomplishment, and it’s well-deserved.
Here’s the set-up: Twelve-year-old Easter Quillby and her 9-year-old sister Ruby are in a foster home following their mother’s death by overdose. The girls have had a tough life with their troubled mom and their dad, a former pro baseball player named Wade Chesterfield, gave up his parental rights years ago. Now Wade wants them back, and that means sneaking them out the window and taking them on the run. And it’s not just family court that’s looking for them, it’s a hit man with a grudge against Wade that’s even more important to him than getting back the hundreds of thousands of dollars the opportunistic Wade lifted from mobbed-up criminal Tommy Broughman.
The story is told from three perspectives: Easter, would-be hitman Robert “Bobby” Pruitt, and Brady Weller. Weller is the girls’ guardian ad litem, a former police detective who was forced from his position when he accidentally ran over – in his own driveway – the teenage neighbor who mowed his lawn. The multiple POV approach works well for the reader, and we quickly bond with both Easter and Brady. It would be a stretch to say that I bonded with Pruitt, but his motivation… and the depths to which he would sink in order to harm Wade… were clear, believable, and chilling.
While a compelling crime novel, the book is even more effective as the story of the love that binds a family together, character flaws and all. I forecast a film treatment in Dark Road’s future. Unfortunately for Cash, he’s up against some pretty heavy hitters in this year’s Edgar race. Although it’s a good story, well-told, he’s outclassed by his competitors. Hence, the eminently readable Wiley Cash takes the #5 spot.