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allen eskens
Nothing More Dangerous

Nothing More Dangerous

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In a small Southern town where loyalty to family and to "your people" carries the weight of a sacred oath, defying those unspoken rules can be a deadly proposition.

After fifteen years of growing up in the Ozark hills with his widowed mother, high-school freshman Boady Sanden is beyond ready to move on. He dreams of glass towers and cityscapes, driven by his desire to be anywhere other than Jessup, Missouri. The new kid at St. Ignatius High School, if he isn't being pushed around, he is being completely ignored. Even his beloved woods, his playground as a child and his sanctuary as he grew older, seem to be closing in on him, suffocating him.

Then Thomas Elgin moves in across the road, and Boady's life begins to twist and turn. Coming to know the Elgins—a black family settling into a community where notions of "us" and "them" carry the weight of history—forces Boady to rethink his understanding of the world he's taken for granted. Secrets hidden in plain sight begin to unfold: the mother who wraps herself in the loss of her husband, the neighbor who carries the wounds of a mysterious past that he holds close, the quiet boss who is fighting his own hidden battle.

But the biggest secret of all is the disappearance of Lida Poe, the African-American woman who keeps the books at the local plastics factory. Word has it that Ms. Poe left town, along with a hundred thousand dollars of company money. Although Boady has never met the missing woman, he discovers that the threads of her life are woven into the deepest fabric of his world.

As the mystery of her fate plays out, Boady begins to see the stark lines of race and class that both bind and divide this small town—and he will be forced to choose sides.

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Reviews and Praise

"This powerful, unforgettable crime novel is a coming-of-age book to rival some of the best, such as William Kent Krueger’s Ordinary Grace or Larry Watson’s Montana 1948. While Eskens’s books are not part of a series, his readers will recognize Boady as an adult character in two of his earlier books, including the award-winning The Life We Bury. This timely stand-alone is a must-read for followers of the best in crime fiction."
   —Library Journal starred review (read the full review)

"Allen Eskens hits it out of the park"
   —St. Paul Pioneer Press

"Gripping...a Stand By Me quality with Stephen King-like dread around every bend.... a fine mystery that involves layers of racial introspection, persecution, guilt and retribution.... The characters are intriguing; some you love and some you hate. And numerous back stories enrich the plot, taking us deep into personal purgatories..."
   —Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Brilliantly told, a stunning literary, mystery, suspense, historical fiction, and coming-of-age combo that will blow you away. His best yet! My Top Books of 2019. If you read only one book this year, choose Nothing More Dangerous!"
   —Judith D Collins, Must Read Books (read the full review)

"Eskens does an excellent job of weaving disparate threads together into a fine blend of mystery and coming-of-age novel. The setting is spot-on, the characters are empathetic and well realized, and the plot is clever and compelling, building suspense until a harrowing denouement reveals all."
   —Booklist Reviews

"Both heartwarming and hard-nosed, Nothing More Dangerous is a coming-of-age page-turner that probes the dark heart of small towns and the resilient strength that keeps families together."
   —Thomas Mullen, author of Darktown

Mulholland Books, Hardcover, November 2019, ISBN: 9780316509725