Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Nothing More Dangerous by Allen Eskens

Allen Eskens' Nothing More Dangerous currently tops my list of favorites for 2019. For me, it's this year's November Road. That means I'm recommending it to everyone who reads crime fiction or coming-of-age novels. Loved William Kent Krueger's Ordinary Grace? Remember Larry Watson's Montana 1948? You must read Nothing More Dangerous. Eskens has been writing it since 1991. Surely you have a couple days to read it.

Boady Sanden is just a fifteen-year-old boy longing to escape his home in the Ozarks in 1976. He's suffering through his freshman year at St. Ignatius Catholic High School, where his mother sent him so he'd stay out of trouble. Now, he's a country kid out of place in the school. When a trio of seniors plan to torment the only black girl in the school, Boady doesn't do himself any favors by tripping them up. Jarvis Halcomb and his buddies won't forget Boady's interference.

Boady will come to learn the entire Halcomb family is trouble. Ms. Lida Poe's disappearance sets off the summer of turmoil. She worked in purchasing for Ryke Manufacturing, the biggest employer in town. Because money also went missing, along with the black woman, Ryke's parent company sends in a new manager, and Jarvis Halcomb's father is demoted. The new manager, Charles Elgin, is black. He moves his family across the street from Boady. The Halcombs, and the CORPS, Crusaders of Racial Purity and Strength, "a bunch of Ku Klux Klan wannabes', as Boady's neighbor, Hoke calls them, do not accept the changes well.

Boady's friendship with Thomas Elgin, a boy his own age, is challenged by their racial differences and slang. But, that's nothing compared to the fear that challenges the small group of people who live in Frog Hollow. 1976 becomes a summer of sticks and rocks, escalating to fires and guns.

Nothing More Dangerous is a masterpiece. Boady Sanden is a memorable character. Although he appears in two of Eskens' earlier novels, he appears as an adult. This is a powerful standalone, a timely novel of racism in which a young boy comes of age, and discovers the shadows in a world that isn't black or white. The title comes from a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King. "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance." It sums up the characters and the intense story. It's a compelling, unforgettable book.

Allen Eskens' website is http://alleneskens.com/

Nothing More Dangerous by Allen Eskens. Mulholland Books, 2019. ISBN 9780316509725 (hardcover), 304p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.

Allen Eskens


Jeff Meyerson said...

Yes, I loved the Krueger and the Watson, as well as November Road and Eskens' other books. I am waiting on this from the library.

Lesa said...

Today's release date. I hope you get it soon, Jeff! David & I were lucky. He spotted the only two copies at Mystery Mike's at Bouchercon. No one else had it since it wasn't out yet.

Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

We have some shared favorites, for sure. I have a feeling this will be another one!

Lesa said...

I hope so, Kaye! And, I hope Julia Spencer-Fleming's book is as well.