cover image Dark Ride

Dark Ride

Lou Berney. Morrow, $30 (256p) ISBN 978-0-06-266386-3

This stellar outing from Berney (November Road) centers on 23-year-old slacker Hardy Reed, whose conscience thrusts him into a dangerous investigation. In an unnamed Midwestern city, Hardy—whose bare-minimum work ethic has earned him the nickname “Hardly”—passes his days getting stoned with friends after shifts at an amusement park. That changes one day at the park when he sees two kids on a bench with what appear to be cigarette burns. He’s horrified, and despite his typically listless demeanor, attempts to stir up an investigation. When he speaks to Child Services, he’s rebuffed by the overwhelmed workers whose caseloads are outpacing their capacities. Haunted by the notion that the children remain at risk, Hardy attempts to save them on his own. As he gathers allies, he learns that the children’s father is an attorney and a violent drug dealer, and that finding justice might be even more dangerous than he expected. Hardy is a memorable hero with an extremely satisfying arc, and Berney draws the supporting players with equal care, wringing pathos from their interplay as much as the heartbreaking premise. Few readers will finish this unmoved. Agent: Shane Salerno, Story Factory. (Sept.)