cover image Miss Me When I'm Gone

Miss Me When I'm Gone

Philip Stephens, Plume, $15 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-452-29678-7

Music writer and poet Stephens (The Determined Days) turns out a debut novel that reads like a murder ballad as it evocatively chronicles folk singer Cyrus Harper's return home to Apogee, Mo., an Ozark town ravaged on one side by meth and on the other by Cyrus's brother, Isaac, a real estate developer looking to turn their childhood homestead into a resort. Battling the DTs and the same propensity his sickly mother has for seeing "hog-eyed men" and holding conversations with the dead, Cyrus searches for his sister and childhood singing companion, Saro, whose voice "suited tunes of botched love, misdeeds, and murder." She vanished years ago, but reports of a strange woman roaming the woods stoke hope in Cyrus. Little does he know that the woman is clearing a path of destruction that would make Lizzie Borden blush. Though some readers will find the material stretched too thin, others will appreciate Stephens's determination to comprehend our darkest natures and motivations, a mission accomplished with a rueful swagger. (Jan.)