Fateful Mornings by Tom Bouman

Maiden’s Grove Lake in Wild Thyme Township in northeastern Pennsylvania is an oasisfateful mornings for the well-off in an otherwise hilly, hard-bitten place where crimes both petty and strange happen semi-regularly.  Here in this beautiful but harsh place, there is an uneasy truce between poor and rich, meth labs and natural gas interests.  All of this tends to keep Officer Henry Farrell busy enough.  Being a native of the area himself, he well understands the foibles of his neighbors.

When investigating a burglary at a house on the lake, Henry gets involved with one of the suspects, a young man who lives with his girlfriend in a trailer on the edge of property belonging to Andy Swales, a moneyed lawyer about town.  The girlfriend, with a history of drug abuse, has been missing.  The couple have a small child with health issues, but she has long been in foster care.

The missing person case and a purported shooting has Henry digging deeper and farther, crossing the state border into Binghamton and elsewhere, and finding trouble in all the wrong places.  Extended family resentments are revealed, the body count mounts, and bigger menaces come into play beyond the relative calm of Wild Thyme.

As if his job doesn’t provide enough drama, Henry has his own affairs (literally) to sort out, including one he’d love to end, and another that shows strong promises.  He still grieves for his deceased wife, drowns his share of sorrows on a regular basis, and moonlights as a construction worker for his close friend Ed Brennan, with whom Henry plays old-timey fiddle music.

Fateful Mornings moves at a slower pace than most thrillers.  Not to say that there aren’t sudden surprises here – they come with their own grisly quickness – but the nature of the book is that of character development, slow and sure and ultimately worth it.

This one can be read as a standalone, but if you prefer to read things in sequence, start with Dry Bones in the Valley, the first book in the series.

(William Hicks, Information Services)