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Above the Waterfall by Ron Rash

January 1, 2016


This a story of ways of life coming into conflict—old vs new, poor vs wealthy, nature vs development. It is a common theme for stories set in the mountains, with nature such a dominant element. Here we’re in the Appalachian Mountains in North Carolina. It’s a small town, and the sheriff is on the verge of retirement after years of fighting off the encroaching meth epidemic and losing ground. He is trying to train his replacement, dealing with his depressed ex-wife, finding some solace in an old friend, a park ranger. He’s also been dealing with the ongoing issue of one of the local men, supposedly harmless, repeatedly trespassing on the land owned by a nearby resort. With tensions building, a crime is committed and, like any  good mystery, there are a number of potential suspects.

This is an enjoyable read, but I wasn’t fully hooked in the story. Because of the setting and the story, it reminded me of Christopher Scotton’s The Secret Wisdom of the Earth. It’s ultimately much less ambitious than Wisdom, but more successful (probably because it bites off less). It also reminded me of Tom Franklin’s Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, though as a mystery not as enthralling. And as a cultural piece about a region, I didn’t find it as enveloping as some of Daniel Woodrell’s books (Winter’s Bone and Tomato Red). Still, with all that said, I liked all of those books for various reasons, and this one fits comfortably into that family. Overall a pretty good read.

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