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Fallen Mountains

Sheriff John "Red" Redifer is itching to retire from the Fallen Mountains Police Department. But before he can submit his letter of resignation, a woman shows up at the station to report that her boyfriend, Transom Shultz, has been missing for five days.

Chapters offering Red's perspective as he tries to account for Transom's disappearance alternate with chapters from the perspectives of locals who, like Red, know Transom all too well. There's Chase Hardy, who was initially grateful to his longtime friend for buying the Hardy farm after his grandparents died--Chase continues to work and live on the land--but he resents that Transom sold off the property's mineral rights. There's Laney, whose sexual history with Transom has spilled into the too-recent past; she fears that he won't keep the secret from Chase, with whom she has fallen in love. And there's Laney's cousin Possum, who as a teenager tried to kill his stepfather. He also has reason to want to kill Transom, as only Red, still burdened by a hard decision he made years earlier, is aware.

The fracking angle makes Fallen Mountains a topical novel, but its primary concern--whether it's ever conscionable to put family before civic duty--belongs to any era. Kimi Cunningham Grant, a prize-winning poet and the author of the memoir Silver Like Dust, uses marvelous economy to play out this small-town thriller, which is ingeniously plotted to the end; mystery lovers accustomed to a few final pages of languid wrap-up can forget it. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer