Nothing More Dangerous
By: Allen Eskens
Publisher: Mulholland Books
Publication Date: 11/12/2019
My Rating: 5 Stars +++ Top Books of 2019 Q&A with Author In a small 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 is forced to choose sides.
I wish I could give this 10 STARS. 🌟 Movie-Worthy. 🎬 (or better a TV series). The author hits a home run and checks ALL the boxes. Eskens is at the TOP of his game 🎯! More, please!
Stay tuned for my fascinating upcoming Elevator Ride Q&A with the bestselling Author coming Nov 12, 2019!
Did you know this book has been in the making for twenty-some years? Trust me; the timing is perfect and worth the wait! 😎
Character-driven! Lyrical, heartbreaking, and haunting, this eloquent novel will warm your heart and confirm Allen Eskens' place among our nation’s FINEST writers.
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!
Evocative! An emotionally resonating coming-of-age tale of discrimination, guilt, grief, and redemption.
I have read all of Allen Esken's books (a master storyteller) and trust me; you will fall in love with these characters (the good ones). Good and evil. You will shed a tear or two. If you loved his debut, you are assured to devour this one. It can be read as a standalone; however if you have the time go back and start with #1. You will love Thomas and Boady and their friendship.
The setting and time for the novel: 1976—Jessup, Missouri, a small rural town on Frog Hollow Road. As most small towns go, most residents want to escape for better things or a more fulfilled life. The town holds dark secrets. People tend to know everyone’s business. They can be narrow-minded and either pull you down with them or provide you the strength to press onward to strive for something broader.
In NOTHING MORE DANGEROUS, the author tackles some highly charged tough and emotional subjects. From injustice, white supremacy, prejudice, racism, murder, class, privilege, police corruption, politics, bullying, discrimination, friendship, family redemption, guilt, grief, self-discovery, plus more. A timely and compelling coming-of age-tale that could be ripped from today's headlines.
From fear, grief, loss, and tragedy. To love, faith, resilience, and redemption. At the heart of the novel is family and the ties that bind. Unforgettable characters that jump off the page. You are drawn into every scene with vivid descriptions and lyrical prose. This is a classic. Every teen and adult should read this book.
Follow 15-year-old Boady (we met in book #1, an attorney) and his new neighbor (same age) Thomas (African American). Their entire street is targeted. They become best friends and come face to face with bullies and white supremacy groups. Not only the sons are part of the organization, but their father and uncle are the leaders. It is a matter of survival.
Boady is forced to go up against bullies: Jarvis and the Boob Brothers—both at school and away from school. They seem to follow him wherever he goes. It is tough being a freshman at the Catholic private school, and a teen trying to escape their wrath. Angus, the cousin, seemed to be ok. But still, Thomas and Boady must even contend with Jarvis' horrible father and uncle. He and Thomas are targeted as well as others on their street.
An African woman goes missing years earlier. Lida Poe kept the books at the local plastics factory. They say she left town and embezzled thousands of dollars. However, is there something bigger at play and did someone murder her to take the fall?
Thomas's family moves across the street from Boady's family. His dad is the new boss at the factory. However, the bad white men at the factory do not like him meddling in the affairs since he may overturn their misdeeds. They want him out. Plus they do not Boady befriending Thomas and the black girl at school.
Boady and Thomas do some sleuthing on their own and begin uncovering things, but when they report it to the local Sherriff he brushes them off and covers his tracks. How far does the corruption go and who can they trust?
Everywhere they go they are followed and tortured. However, will the strength of family and neighbors and friends win in the end?
In the novel, the author explores a group called CORPS—Crusaders of Racial Purity and Strength. White supremacy has been depicted in music videos, feature films, documentaries, journal entries, and social media. It is front and center every day in the news. We see the destruction it can cause and the damage to our youth when parents, leaders, and elders recruit their followers.
What an incredible and poignant story! I could not put this book down. I adored the relationship between the two moms and the friendship between Boady and Thomas.
The best surprise, the mysterious next-door neighbor older man Hoke Gardner (LOVE) is more than he appears. (think Clint Eastwood -Walt neighbor in Gran Torino -2008 movie). A lot of parallels here.
NOTHING MORE DANGEROUS is rich in character and place. From the Dixon Pond, fishing, the old oak tree, the woods, and nature. They also provide metaphors and symbolism.
I can only hope we see a series (both book and TV series). NOTHING MORE DANGEROUS is a "This is US" TV series in the making. More Hoke letters and more Boady and Thomas, please!! ❤ A continuation from high school, college, their relationships, and beyond. I want to see where these families go. What a journey!
If you are a fan of William Kent Krueger's Ordinary Grace or This Tender Land; Tom Franklin's Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, John Grisham's The Guardians, Delia Owens's Where the Crawdads Sing, or Diane Chamberlain's Necessary Lies and authors: Dennis Lehane, Randall Silvis, Tim Johnston, and Thomas Mullen —this book is for you!
Order it NOW and move to the top of your list!
The Guise of Another (Detective Max Rupert, #2)
The Heavens May Fall (Detective Max Rupert #3)
The Deep Dark Descending (Detective Max Rupert, #4)
PS It appears we get more Lila next! "Likely" sounds good enough for me. She deserves a book of her own, right? From Allen's website: Lila Nash—a supporting character in novels 1, 3 and 5, will likely be the protagonist of novel number 7.
A special thank you to Little Brown & Co and Mulholland Books for a print ARC and Netgalley for digital.
"Brilliant... full of deeply developed characters .... [A] darkly lyrical and brutally intimate story." ―Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"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.... A must-read."-—Library Journal (starred review) A LIBRARY JOURNAL Mystery Pick of the Month
"Eskens does an excellent job of weaving [the] 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 revals all." ―Booklist
"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
"Eskens’ latest novel is a warmhearted story of a white teenager's awakening to the racial tensions that run through his Missouri town in 1976. . . Perfect for readers who wish To Kill a Mockingbird had been presented from a slightly older, male point of view." —Kirkus Reviews NOTHING MORE DANGEROUS
About the Author
Author photo credit: A.T. Knight
Allen Eskens is the bestselling author of The Life We Bury, The Guise of Another, The Heavens May Fall, The Deep Dark Descending, and The Shadows We Hide. He is the recipient of the Barry Award, Minnesota Book Award, Rosebud Award (Left Coast Crime), and Silver Falchion Award and has been a finalist for the Edgar® Award, Thriller Award, Anthony Award, and Audie Award. His books have been translated into 21 languages and his novel, The Life We Bury is in development for a feature film.
Allen has a journalism degree from the University of Minnesota and a law degree from Hamline University. After law school, he studied creative writing in the M.F.A. program at Minnesota State University-Mankato, as well as the Loft Literary Center and the Iowa Summer Writer’s Festival. Allen grew up on the hills of central Missouri. He now lives with his wife, Joely, in greater Minnesota where he recently retired after practicing criminal law for 25 years.
Allen is represented by Amy Cloughley of Kimberley Cameron and Associates Literary Agency. Read More
From the Author
A Map of My Work
As explained on the home page of my website, I don’t write a series, but rather character arcs that revolve around a small community, I thought I would take a moment to lay out the relationships between my books and characters.
The Life We Bury introduces the four main characters who appear in future novels:
Joe Talbert—protagonist in The Life We Bury and The Shadows We Hide.
Max Rupert—a homicide detective in The Life We Bury is the focus of novels 2, 3 and 4.
Boady Sanden—attorney, is a secondary character in novels 1 and 3, but will be the lead in novel 6.
Lila Nash—a supporting character in novels 1, 3 and 5, will likely be the protagonist of novel number 7.
The Shadows We Hide is the sequel to The Life We Bury. It is the story of Joe Talbert, his brother Jeremy, his mother Kathy, and of course, Lila Nash, Joe’s girlfriend. The story picks up six years after the end of The Life We Bury and revisits the aftermath of decisions made in the The Life We Bury.
The Guise of Another, The Heavens May Fall, and The Deep Dark Descending follow the progression of Max Rupert as he goes from being a man with a strong moral code to a man fighting against his darkest nature.