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Don Hoesel is the acclaimed author of Elisha's Bones. Currently he works in the communications department of a large company and holds a BA in Mass Communication from Taylor University. He has also published short fiction in Relief Journal. Don lives in Spring Hill, Tennessee, with his wife and two children.
A line of venerable sugar maples stood between the Baxter home and the private road, half obscuring the residence from anyone following the winding route up the hill until the moment the cobblestone driveway appeared, as if from nowhere, on the right. Built in the Federalist style, with its Palladian windows and narrow chimneys, the large house had looked down on Adelia from its perch atop Franklin County's highest point for more than two hundred years, the frame taking shape almost a full decade before the Redcoats' 1813 jaunt up the St. Lawrence in pursuit of General Wilkinson. Three hundred mostly wooded acres, as long a part of the Baxter holdings as the house itself, stretched out from the back porch-a massive tract of undeveloped land thick with white pine, interspersed with stubborn popple, and filled with whitetail, rabbit, and fox. Eight generations of Baxters had culled game from this land, and when the British made the mistake of taking their chase through the southeastern corner of the acreage, the list of acceptable prey was righteously amended to include them. Beyond the unmarked graves of these trespassing soldiers, past the far boundary that marked the Baxter property line, the wilderness continued almost without interruption tothe feet of the Adirondacks.
The road that passed in front of the Baxter place-a one-lane thoroughfare called Lyndale that until two months ago had been gravel but now looked slick with fresh asphalt-separated the property from the ninety-foot drop-off that allowed the residents of the home to survey the town below. The road was a splinter off SR 44 that linked the interstate a hundred miles south with the 122 across the U.S.-Canada border, but when the Baxter ancestors first cut the trail up the hill, the main road was little more than a rutted wagon path, and Eisenhower and his interstate 150 years off.
As Artie Kadziolka made his way down one of Adelia's uneven sidewalks, keys in hand, arthritis sending streaks of sharp pain through his knees to supplement the perpetual throbbing, his eyes found the house on the hill, more easily spotted now that fall had shed the maples of half their leaves. He counted six cars and trucks parked in the semicircular driveway and guessed that meant the old man was on his way out. A twinge of sadness made a sudden appearance but was gone almost before Artie recognized it. Death had been lingering outside that house for a long while, and Sal Baxter had done all he could to keep him hovering around the maples, but the unwelcome visitor had finally carried his terrible scythe across the doorstep.
The keys jingled in Artie's hand as he walked, and he grimaced against the stiffness in both knees. The arthritis had gotten worse over the last few months, and his prescription medication was no longer doing the job. So last week he'd doubled up on the pills, which had helped a little. He knew the walk to the hardware store did him good-helped him to loosen things up-but it was becoming clear that no amount of pills or exercise was going to keep things from growing progressively worse. Still, it wasn't the legs that worried him; he could run his business without full use of them. What worried him was how he would keep the store going if the arthritis took to his hands with the same vengeance with which it was working on his lower appendages. It would be foolish to operate a table saw without the ability to keep a firm hand on the wood passing through the blade.
He crossed Third Avenue, the road empty except for a yellow dog that Artie saw disappear down the alley separating Maggie's Deli from Walden's Drug. In another thirty minutes a group of men would gather outside Maggie's waiting for coffee, and Maggie would tsk at them through the window while she readied to open, which she wouldn't do until seven o'clock. She hadn't opened even a minute early once in the last twenty years, and yet there wasn't a morning when the men didn't gather, peeking through the window, trying to catch Maggie's eye. Often Sal Baxter's son, George, was among them, although Artie suspected such would not be the case today with what was happening up the hill.
Artie had fond memories of hunting with George in the woods behind the Baxter home, years ago-in the late fifties, when both attended Adelia High. Artie would follow George up the gravel road to his house with a few of the other boys lucky enough to be included in George's circle. Artie carried his Winchester. Mostly they were after squirrel, although once they took an eight-point out of season; it was George's shot that had brought the deer down. This was back when the Baxters cast a longer shadow over the county-when there was talk of Sal running for governor. Back then, Artie ate at their table, teased George's sister, chopped wood for Sal, and nursed a desperate crush on George's mom, who was the local standard of beauty for years.
Then George had gone off to college.
Artie had carried on with George's sister for a while, yet that ended before George came home for Christmas break, a different person than the one who'd left. After that, the only times the two talked were those few occasions when George needed something from Artie's father's store-the store that now belonged to the son. George still came in now and then, to buy the odd tool or coil wire, and they would chat for a few minutes-always cordially, never too familiar. But not once had Artie been tempted to change his daily routine to join the men who gathered in front of Maggie's every morning, even when George was among them.
Artie almost felt bad about his involvement in the pool, although it didn't stop him from wishing that the elder statesman of the Baxter clan would hold on just one more day. Artie stood to win a cool thousand dollars if George's dad passed into the great beyond tomorrow. On the heels of this last thought he reached his destination and started sorting through the mess of keys on the ring.
Kaddy's Hardware-the name coming from Artie's grandfather's belief that people might be reluctant to enter an establishment whose name they couldn't pronounce-occupied the corner of Fifth and Main. It was the perfect location, with ample parking in the side lot, and Ronny's Bar & Grill next door. From eleven to five, a steady stream of customers came through-mostly for small-ticket items, but those added up. Artie made a good living on duct tape and caulk, and aerator rentals.
As the keys clinked against each other, a city services truck rolled around Sycamore and up Fifth, Gabe at the wheel. Artie waved as it passed by, turned and headed up Main toward the town center. In the back, a sign for the Adelia Fall Festival swayed dangerously, and Artie watched until the truck straightened, expecting the heavy wooden placard to topple to the pavement, but it remained in the bed and the pickup continued on. By midmorning several of the signs-some of them the original ones hand-painted by the founders of the Fall Festival back in 1931-would line the streets surrounding town hall, and in the weeks leading up to the event, seasonal decorations would pop up and then the big banner would be strung across Main. The Festival, whose seasonal synchronicity placed at the height of football season, was the most anticipated event in Adelia, punctuated by the arts and craft fair along Main, the town dance, a parade, a lawn fete at St. Anthony's, and officially culminating in the Adelia High home game against rival Smithson Academy, of neighboring Batesville. The two teams, historically evenly matched, had come near to splitting forty years' worth of games, although Adelia had won the last three. But Smithson was strong this year, projected to go to the state championship.
Unofficially, the Fall Festival found its end much later in the evening, when students from both schools met at the town line to pummel each other with tomatoes under the amused eyes of the adults. This tradition was like most modern incarnations of long-lived events, a neutered version of the original occasion, when men from Batesville had shown up at the first Fall Festival to throw rocks at the Adelia revelers, who responded in kind. In the seventy-eight years that followed, the only time period during which some form of the confrontation did not happen was between 1937-1942 when Batesville, with its overwhelmingly German citizenry, suspected an escalation to more deadly projectiles should they make their customary appearance.
His key found the lock and he gave it a turn, wincing against the pain that shot up the back of his hand to the wrist. He released the key still in the lock and opened and closed the hand. Then, with a shake of his head, he pushed open the door. He knew it was only a matter of time until he couldn't do this anymore, and unlike his father, he didn't have a son to whom he could turn the business over. When he retired, Kaddy's would be gone.
That brought a small laugh from his thick frame, and as he stepped into the store he winked at Cadbury. The scarecrow offered its toothless grin in response from its spot in the corner. Artie was acting as if the absence of his store would have some kind of lasting impact on Adelia. The town, though, would do just fine; it would remain long after someone else had filled this prime piece of real estate.
Before he could shut the door, he caught sight of movement on the newly paved road. A pickup was taking the steep part of the hill, heading toward the Baxter place. He watched until it hit the flat and swung into the driveway, disappearing behind one of the ancient maples to take its place in the line of vehicles belonging to the rest of the vigil keepers. He supposed that was something he had in common with the oldest family in Adelia. Long after Sal was gone, the Baxter clan would still be there.
As the door shut behind him, he found himself wondering if Sal's death would finally bring CJ back.
Excerpted from Hunter's Moon by Don Hoesel Copyright © 2010 by Don Hoesel. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted July 20, 2010
While I was thinking about what I was going to write for my review of the book, Hunter's Moon, this one phrase kept coming to mind. I should have read it sooner! This was a book that I received awhile ago to review, along with a few others. I just kept shuffling it to the bottom of the pile. My favorite types of books are contemporary and mystery. And this is a good mystery book! I should have read it sooner!
CJ Baxter left home 17 years ago, vowing never to return. With him, it took one of the families darkest secrets. When the death of his favorite uncle brings him back home, he comes face to face with the past that he had been running from. With CJ's brother Graham running for Senate, how far will the family go to keep CJ and his secret quiet?
This is a good book, with twists and turns to keep you interested. A good mystery -- with a small twist that I didn't see coming until the last minute. Definitely a must read for anybody who loves a good mystery!
This book was published by Bethany House. Click here to read more!
Posted July 15, 2010
The ending of this book reminded me of a little version of a modern day Cain and Abel. However, I have to say that I was disappointed with this novel, it was rather bland for my taste. It brought to mind the image of a huge plate of gorgeous food that you just can't wait to devour only to be disappointed once you taste it only to realize it is flavorless. I guess my high expectations for Hunter's Moon were to high because it definitely did disappoint. I would not recommend this book to anyone I know, its just not worth it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 28, 2010
Hunter's Moon is a gripping story of family secrets that have never been told, but have haunted CJ Baxter for years. CJ Baxter is a bestselling novelist whose stories are closely related to the real life secrets he has known for so long. When his grandfather dies, he returns to is home town of Adelia, NY, where he must face the family that he left so long ago. An old flame, a pending divorce, a bitter custody battle over his dog, a suspicious business deal and a decades old secret all serve to complicate CJ's life and he soon finds that he must release the secrets he has kept for so long. at any cost.
The author did a great job of pacing this story out. There was always some mystery that kept me wondering until the end. The plot was well-crafted with many intricacies that all linked together to make the story work. My favorite character in this story was Artie, an old-man who talks to scarecrow and knows more of the Baxter family secrets than he should. Definitely a book I will read again.
Posted March 31, 2010
I Also Recommend:
With his grandfather dying, author C.J. Baxter heads back to a place he hasn't been in over 17 years - home. The power hungry Baxter family and their home have been sitting atop Franklin County's highest point for over 200 years. Their goal to become as powerful as the renowned Irish-American Kennedy clan only succeeds as far as the town of Adelia. Even though he has become something of a hometown celebrity, C.J. isn't welcomed by his own family. However, once he is there, Adelia, N.Y. seems like a good place to escape from a failing marriage, bad book reviews, a probable lawsuit and possible arrest. After being attacked by his older brother Graham, C.J. decides he can be as ruthless as his family and determines to reveal the deep, dark family secrets. Risking much, he begins to write an expose'. Graham Baxter is running for Senate and in his grab for power the last thing he wants is for C.J. to write about his transgressions. Graham, his father, and his campaign manager struggle to keep C.J. quiet in order to save the run for election.
Hunter's Moon is the second novel of Don Hoesel. I completely enjoyed reading this captivating mystery! The suspense in the novel kept me reading late into the night, and the outcome was completely unexpected. The Library Journal is quoted on the cover saying, "This intelligent drama will appeal to readers who enjoy stories about...the faith that guides one through life." With that, I disagree. There was very little faith mentioned in the book - C.J. is a new Christian struggling to forgive but you really don't see his character seeking God to direct his many decisions. However, the book is a great read and I look forward to reading more from Don Hoesel.
Thank you to Bethany House for providing this book in exchange for an honest review.
Posted March 22, 2010
I have minor issues with the cover of the book, because it makes it seem like a thriller, and this really isn't. It's a novel about family and about integrity. Most of the book is literary fiction at its best (and while I say that term with a mighty eyeroll, it's true). The writing is crisp and evocative and the whole book is wonderfully paced and plotted.
(This is not to say that the last 50 pages or so aren't action-packed. They are--I think I read them in about 20 minutes and I was unable to read fast enough.)
CJ is a very likeable character; I hope there's a sequel.
Posted March 22, 2010
Hunter's Moon is an excellent book. I really like the picture on the cover of the smoking gun and the title of the book. I always look in the book to find out what both of these mean. I thought this book was clear on what they meant. CJ is an author and his grandfather passed away, CJ decided to return to his hometown to attend the funeral. That is when all of the past comes at him. All of the things he has tried to cover up or forget his whole life. Hunter's Moon has many things, secrets, domestic violence, anger, bitterness and you can see how all of this affects the family. One holds a secret about the other that has shaped the entire families lives and could destroy their future. CJ Baxter has only recently become a Christian, and he is still struggling but makes the right life choices in the end. CJ has been away from his hometown for many years, but finds in the end that it is a special place. This book is full of action, adventure, happiness, sadness, betrayal, and life. Like I said Hunter's Moon is an excellent book, but it started out slow and I would have loved the ending to have been more to it. I would have liked having the ending wrapped up more and find out what is going on with each character. This would be a great book to have a sequel to. Overall I really love this book. It held my interest very easily and I would recommend it to anyoneWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 9, 2010
Hunter's Moon by Don Hoesel is the powerful sophomore novel by the writer of Elisha's Bones. CJ Baxter, a famed novelist, is summoned home to Adelia, NY after being gone for over seventeen years by the death of his grandfather. The Baxters have long hoped to build a political dynasty like the Kennedy's and those hopes are finally coming to fruition with CJ's brother Graham. But not is all it appears between the brothers. One holds a secret about the other that has shaped the entire family's life and could destroy their future. CJ is a likable character, new in his Christianity, who just keeps seem to let his temper get the best of him; he's on the brink of divorce, facing charges for assaulting a critic, and running from a bench warrant for breaking into his house to steal back his dog. Hoesel carefully builds the drama slowly, ratcheting up the tension so carefully as to be almost imperceptible except for the building tightness in the reader's chest. The dialogue rings incredibly true. A character returning home to face a family crisis and drama is an often used device, but Hoesel avoids the cliches that come with it, making the story brilliantly fresh. The scene of teenaged Graham's threat toward ten-year-old CJ is haunting and CJ's gut-wrenching fear is palpable. This is a story that will stick with the reader long after the final page.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.