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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

First The Thunder

ISBN: 978-1503905481

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Publication Date: 11/06/2018

Format: Paperback

My Rating: 5 Stars (ARC) From award-winning author Randall Silvis comes a riveting exploration of the unforgivable secrets that families keep—and the consequences that come from exposing them. Products of their run-down Pennsylvania mining town, three brothers grapple with their lives in decline. Harvey drives a delivery truck; Stevie works odd jobs; and Will is a struggling bar owner whose wife, Laci, is edging toward desperation when her boss offers her more money…for a price. Then, in this tight circle where prosperity is rare—and hope, even rarer—comes a breaking point in a simple but indefensible slight…

When Harvey gets shafted by his brother-in-law in a deal over a vintage Indian motorcycle, he enlists the help of Stevie and Will to set things right. But the revenge plan goes awry, and the three men stumble upon a shocking secret that, if revealed, would upend their lives.

As they’re crushed under the weight of a nightmarish truth and the damning evidence in their possession, it’s up to Laci to save her family from the coming storm the brothers have wrought. And no one is prepared for the fallout.


My Review

Dark, moody, and compelling.

From the bestselling international acclaimed author, Randall Silvis comes another gripping tale of family, revenge, secrets, desperation, and the ties that bind—FIRST THE THUNDER. A powerful story of love and betrayal.

Silvis takes us to the Pennsylvania mining town (where he is from). You can feel the despair of this family. Their urgent need to right the wrong.

Harvey is the oldest, a truck driver for Jimmy Dean. Harvey is married to Jennalee and despises his brother-in-law, Kenny.

Two years younger, the middle brother Will is married to Laci, a photographer for the local newspaper and they have a daughter named Molly.

Will and Laci purchased a bar they live upstairs in a cramped two-bedroom apartment. The business was not going well due to the economy and a major highway taking the business. The golf business did not turn out the way he planned.

Will and Laci did not want to move back to this town from West Virginia but the pull of his brothers brought them back and now Laci and Molly were trapped and Will was too attached to his brothers. She is concerned. Molly would be headed off to college in four years and they needed money.

Laci could not live like this. She had an affair but knew she had to save her family before they were sinker further into depth and darkness by Will’s brothers. She has her own secrets.

Harvey was always a problem and seemed to be angry and bitter all the time. He typically went from job to job.

The younger brother Stevie works odd jobs as a handyman and helps out at the bar. After a childhood accident on the off everyone treats him like he was brain damaged. They try to protect him. The brothers feel guilty.

Kenny Fulton, Jennalee’s brother, and Harvey do not get along. Harvey wanted rid of Kenny so badly he was willing to risk losing Jennalee. Will couldn't quite figure out this triangle his older brother was immersed in.

Laci tried to wonder about this life she had married into and the brothers who shared secrets. She decides to take on extra work, photographing crime scenes to get an air conditioner for their hot apartment or as an escape from this life.

If you read Silvis’ The Indian, you will catch up with the vintage motorcycle. They were restoring it for three years and Harvey thought the old man wanted him to have it. He told him so. But he died. Kenny refuses to give it to him nor sell it to him.

Was Kenny jealous of Harvey’s relationship with Kenny and Jennalee’s dad? Or is Harvey jealous of Jennalee’s relationship with her mother and brother? What is the source of continued conflict between the brothers-in-law?

From this point on Harvey would not leave the topic alone. He was determined to get this motorcycle when he knew Kenny did not have passion for the bike. Harvey and Kenny soon are in a war over the bike.

Harvey begins to scheme and plan how to get this bike, obsessed. Of course, brings in his brothers to assist. However, things go wrong and the plan backfires. Will is caught in the middle with his brothers, Molly, and Laci.

Stevie would do anything for his brothers. The bond must never be broken.

Laci must get Will to sell the bar to get out of this town to have more opportunities for a better life, but soon she is caught up in this web of deception as well and the entire family secrets soon will be unraveled!

You can feel darkness lurking and a strong sense of foreboding. A tragedy occurs and the secrets are revealed. Everyone is sucked in by the other's behavior. You feel the despair and the darkness and the yearning for a better life. But how far will they go? There is a slow burning twist you do not anticipate as the suspense builds.

As I have stated many times, trust me, when you once read a Randall Silvis book, you will want to read and learn more. His writing is addictive, and he adds a new twist to literary suspense. You will fall in love with his inspiring lyrical "prose" and memorable characters. He possesses a rare talent of combining literary, suspense, mystery with a strong sense of place, and well-developed characters, who make you think and feel.

The author has a way of bringing out the darkness, humans in search of a better life, and due to greed, envy, desperation, revenge or other selfish motivations, they dig themselves further into a hole with dire consequences and there are no do-overs.

I first discovered the author when I read Two Days Gone Ryan DeMarco #1 (2017) and since then became immersed in this series: #2 Walking the Bones (2018) and #3 A Long Way Down (coming 6/4/2019).

Each book is captivating and unique. Another good one, Only the Rain (2018).

Look for my interview with the author, coming June 4 to learn more about this gifted author and his third in the Ryan DeMarco mystery series A LONG WAY DOWN I look forward to reading more of his essays and earlier works.

Enter a book giveaway contest: May 24-June 3 Enter Here US only (1 of 5) Paperback ARCs. A LONG WAY DOWN (coming June 4, 2019)

If you have not read this author, get started! Highly recommend his books. An excellent storyteller, rich in character and emotion! His characters are authentic and relatable and as a reader you are fully engaged in his vivid settings.

For fans of Silvis' THE INDIAN.

A special thank you to Thomas & Mercer and NetGalley for an advanced reading copy.


About the Author

Randall Silvis

Randall Silvis is the internationally acclaimed author of more than a dozen novels, a story collection, and a book of narrative nonfiction. He is also a prize-winning playwright, a produced screenwriter, and a prolific essayist who has been published and produced in virtually every field and genre of creative writing. His essays, articles, poems, and short stories have appeared in Discovery Channel Magazine, the Writer, Prism International, Short Story International, Manoa, and numerous other online and print magazines. His work has been translated into ten languages.

Silvis’s literary awards include two writing fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts; the Drue Heinz Literature Prize; a Fulbright Senior Scholar research award; six fellowships for his fiction, drama, and screenwriting from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts; and an honorary doctor of letters degree for “distinguished literary achievement.”

Learn more about Silvis’s work at

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