cover image The Smoke in Our Eyes

The Smoke in Our Eyes

James Grady. Pegasus Crime, $26.95 (336p) ISBN 978-1-63936-599-9

This episodic, noir-tinged coming-of-age story from Grady (The Train) finds 10-year-old Lucas Ross grappling with the confusions of adolescence in 1950s small-town Montana. After a car accident kills local teen Earl Klise, Lucas watches quietly as the tenuous bonds in rural Martin County begin to fray. His progressive, new-to-town fifth grade teacher, Jordan Smith, helps Lucas foster an awareness of the world outside his small community with classroom lessons inspired by her own travels. Not everyone takes kindly to Jordan’s enlightened sensibilities, however, and tensions rise when she’s drawn into an affair with her coworker Neal Dylan. Neal enlists Lucas to take care of his infant daughter and alcoholic wife, entangling the boy in the family’s volatile domestic situation. Meanwhile, Earl’s grief-stricken mother vows revenge on Hal Hemmer, the teenage survivor of the car accident that killed her son, and Lucas teams up with Jordan and Neal to protect him. Though the threat of violence looms throughout the narrative, Grady for the most part delivers a spare tale of domestic tragedy, light on incident but rich with nostalgia and memorable characters. Thriller readers might twiddle their thumbs, but Larry McMurty fans will enjoy themselves. Agents: David Hale Smith and Michael Carlisle, InkWell Management. (Feb.)