Blue Ridge

T. R. Pearson, Author
T. R. Pearson, Author Viking Books $24.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-670-89269-3
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-0-14-100216-3
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The talented Pearson has moved away from the zany Southern milieu of A Short History of a Small Place and other novels, but his work still resonates with whip-sharp dark humor. In this insightful, sardonic tale of self-discovery and self-deceit, two corpses, one in New York City and one in rural Virginia, send two cousins on separate but parallel quests. Ray Tatum is the new sheriff's deputy in sleepy Hogarth, Va., where some hikers discover a human skeleton, its skull bashed in, on the Appalachian Trail. Investigating the case with the help of a brassy female African-American park ranger named Kit Carson, Ray is forced to come to terms with the collapse of his marriage, his somewhat arid life and the nature of the backwoods town he calls home. Meanwhile, Ray's cousin Paul, an actuary in Roanoke, is summoned to Manhattan to identify what may be the remains of a young man named Troy, the son he never really knew. Paul soon finds himself imperiled in New York's drug underworld and in the thrall of Troy's actress girlfriend and of Giles, the deadly but charismatic criminal who once employed Troy. Both cousins must ultimately attempt the complex calculus of placing values on truth, justice, obligation and human life itself. Pearson writes evocatively of the sometimes cozy, sometimes sinister decadence of fringe communities both North and South, his descriptions enlivened by satirical details and witty editorializing. His suspenseful narrative alternates between the two plots; Ray recounts his tale in a wry omniscient voice, while Paul's first-person account is ruefully self-absorbed and idiosyncratic. These characters may not be as hilariously eccentric as some in Pearson's previous books, but they are equally Dand insidiouslyDmemorable. Author tour. (Sept.)
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