cover image Above the Waterfall

Above the Waterfall

Ron Rash. Ecco, $26.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-06-234931-6

Rash’s (Nothing Gold Can Stay) widely celebrated style lends his Southern Gothic–tinged books a suppleness that verges on prose poetry and, in the case of his new novel, elevates a small-town noir story. Les is a gentle sheriff on the verge of retirement in meth-wracked Appalachia, troubled by the petty rivalries that tear at his North Carolina community and his uncertain love affair with park ranger Becky Lytle. Following a nightmarish raid on a meth house, Les becomes drawn into the case of Gerald Blackwelder, a local eccentric accused of poisoning a trout stream in a land dispute. Gerald’s only advocate is Becky—but as a one-time associate of an infamous ecoterrorist named Richard Pelfrey, she’s been wrong before. Operating on opposing sides of an intrigue that touches on family quarrels and sins of the past, Les and Becky unearth a caper heavy in rich Southern crime and violence, one that’s a cut above the rest. Rash writes prose so beautifully that plot and character can come to seem like mere adornments, and certain touches—such the poems Les writes in his off-hours—feel like showcases. But there’s no denying Rash’s grasp of the North Carolina landscape and its reflection in the oft-tortured souls of its denizens, making this novel one of his most successful ventures into poetic humanism. (Sept.)