Dry Bones in the Valley

( 1 )


When an elderly recluse discovers a corpse on his land, Officer Henry Farrell follows the investigation to strange places in the countryside, and into the depths of his own frayed soul.
In Wild Thyme, Pennsylvania, secrets and feuds go back generations. The lone policeman in a small township on the sparse northern border, Henry Farrell expected to spend his mornings hunting and fishing, his evenings playing old-time music. Instead, he has watched the steady encroachment of gas ...
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When an elderly recluse discovers a corpse on his land, Officer Henry Farrell follows the investigation to strange places in the countryside, and into the depths of his own frayed soul.
In Wild Thyme, Pennsylvania, secrets and feuds go back generations. The lone policeman in a small township on the sparse northern border, Henry Farrell expected to spend his mornings hunting and fishing, his evenings playing old-time music. Instead, he has watched the steady encroachment of gas drilling bring new wealth and erode neighborly trust. The drug trade is pushing heroin into the territory. There are outlaws cooking meth in the woods, guys Henry grew up with. When a stranger turns up dead, Henry’s search for the killer will open old wounds, dredge up ancient crimes, and exact a deadly price.
With vivid characters and flawless pacing, Tom Bouman immerses readers in rural northeastern Pennsylvania, a region in the grip of change. In these derelict woods full of whitetail deer and history, the hunt is on.

2015 Edgar Award Nominee for Best First Novel

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  • Dry Bones in the Valley
    Dry Bones in the Valley  

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 05/12/2014
Although set in northeastern Pennsylvania, Bouman’s outstanding debut has the feel of a western. Officer Henry Farrell became the head policeman in Wild Thyme Township because he expected it to be an easy job with hunting and fishing taking up most of his time. But uneasiness has settled into the economically depressed area with an active drug trade, including home-brewed meth. Drilling for natural gas is bringing money to the region, but this new wealth affects only a few residents, pitting neighbor against neighbor while potentially destroying the land. The discovery of a stranger’s body on a disused dairy farm owned by elderly hermit Aub Dunigan, followed by the murder of a policeman, heightens the tension among the residents. Henry’s growth from a grief-stricken widower to a lawman with an inner resolve fuels the brisk plot, as does an evocative look at a changing landscape. Agent: Neil Olson, Donadio & Olson. (July)
New York Magazine (Six Books to Read this Summer)
“Grit-lit meets wry suspense, along with a keen rendering of place and politics.”
Marilyn Stasio - New York Times Book Review
“Some stories are so sad, you want them to have the comfort of a gentle storytelling voice. Tom Bouman extends this kindness in… his beautifully written first novel.”
Boris Kachka - New York Magazine
“[Incorporates] literary elements—thick atmosphere, regional rootedness, social scope—into an actual fast-paced mystery series.”
Michael Sims - Washington Post
“An exciting and disturbing debut… Bouman brings his world to life with texture that gives every room and vehicle and person a history and character, keeping us immersed in this mesmerizing and often terrifying story.”
Joe Hartlaub - Book Reporter
“Debut author Tom Bouman is a gem… Recommended for your end of summer pleasure.”
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2014-05-19
The worn-down mountains and fertile river valleys of northeastern Pennsylvania hide some dreadful secrets.Officer Henry Farrell has returned, bereft and mentally damaged, from Wyoming to the land of his birth after his wife died from a number of health problems he suspects were related to fracking. In Henry's quiet corner of Pennsylvania, hardscrabble dairy farms and small businesses struggle for survival. For years, there have been few jobs and plenty of poverty. But that's all being changed by the influx of companies leasing land for gas drilling. When the body of a young man is found on the property of Aub Dunigan, and Danny Stiobhard appears at a local clinic to have buckshot picked out of his side after Aub "accidentally" shoots him, Henry realizes he'll have to call in both the sheriff and the state police. Aub, who's suffering from dementia, has little to say, and Danny takes off before the police can ask too many questions. Life only gets more complicated when Henry's deputy, George Ellis, is shot dead and Henry discovers a well-hidden old grave on Aub's property. Henry went to school with many of his suspects and believes that, despite their casual thievery and poaching, most of them are incapable of murder. But the drilling has brought an influx of out-of-state workers, set neighbor against neighbor, and opened the door to dangerous meth cookers and heroin pushers who've set up business in remote locations. The key to solving Henry's case may lie in a remarkably well-preserved body found in the hidden grave.Bouman's debut shows rural noir at its finest: a poetically written mystery about a man struggling with his inner demons and an area of great natural beauty few had heard of before the natural gas boom.
Wiley Cash
“A tough, edgy thriller that asks hard questions about the destruction of our environment, our local communities, and our families. Readers of smart literary thrillers are going to love this novel. I wish like hell that my name were on the cover.”
James Sallis
“Raymond Chandler said that Hammett took murder away from the manor houses and gave it back to the people who actually commit it. Tom Bouman continues that tradition. Bouman's story is deceptively simple, layered with history, bearing the promise of lightness, of redemption.”
Steve Weddle
“Tom Bouman is a remarkable new voice in contemporary fiction. Dry Bones in the Valley is a tightly crafted piece of rural noir that seems pulled from the earth itself, a profound look at the dark corners of rural America. Readers of Daniel Woodrell and Donald Ray Pollock will find much to love.”
Hannah Pittard
“It's a mystery, yes, but it's also a love story between a man and the land and people he knows like the back of his hand. Dry Bones in the Valley is a gorgeous, lived-in novel, and Bouman's turns of phrase are chest-clutching in their beauty.”
Joe R. Lansdale
“So smooth it's as if it was written on spring water. Shadowy, swift, impossible to put down. I was enraptured. Any justice and this writer will soon be a major star.”
Ed Falco
“Officer Henry Farrell is a shy man, but in his own ways just as ornery and tough as the cast of rugged characters who inhabit his Pennsylvania woods, where the mysteries are as old as love and grief. A rural cop with a keen intelligence and a wounded heart, Henry’s the right man to unearth the secrets of Dry Bones in the Valley. Tom Bouman’s debut novel is one you won’t want to miss.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393243024
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 7/7/2014
  • Pages: 284
  • Sales rank: 177,431
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Tom Bouman is a former book editor and musician who lives with his wife and daughter in northeastern
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 20, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    I received a free advanced copy of this book in exchange for a r

    I received a free advanced copy of this book in exchange for a review.

    This Appalachian murder-mystery is more mountain ballad than cozy, but unlike the mountain ballads, this story is about modern Appalachia, drawing on current issues like meth-labs and gas-drilling that's destroying/poisoning the natural environment. Some people may not like the tone of the book - it's a melancholic-romance, typical of the mountain ballads and what cozy can be found is in the heritage of the mountain ballads that it resembles.

    In places, the prose is beautiful and quotable, if I had a copy of the finished product to quote, but there are a couple patchy spots where one paragraph doesn't blend seamlessly into the next.

    I love that I didn't solve the murder until the end. The mystery is wrapped up in many threads - some focused more on introducing Officer Henry Farrell's world -Wild Thyme, Pennsylvania- than the murder, but this was used in a way that made the investigation feel more realistic than what's usually found in cozy-mysteries. I will be watching for the second installment of this series.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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