cover image Nothing More Dangerous

Nothing More Dangerous

Allen Eskens. Mulholland, $27 (304p) ISBN 978-0-316-50972-5

Set in Jessup, Mo., in 1976, this tepid coming-of-age story, with a mystery element, from Edgar-finalist Eskens (The Life We Bury) centers on the relationship between Boady Sanden, an unhappy 15-year-old white boy, and Thomas Elgin, a black boy his own age who moves in with his family next door. Boady and Thomas hit it off after some initial awkwardness when Boady thoughtlessly uses the N-word. The boys’ unremarkable escapades include encounters with the opposite sex. Meanwhile, Lida Poe, an African-American woman who worked in the purchasing department of Jessup’s largest employer, a plastics producer, goes missing. Rumors circulate that Lida was involved in some financial chicanery and Thomas’s father was brought in from Minnesota to try to straighten the business out. Eventually, Boady and Thomas run across a corpse and start playing detectives themselves. The action builds to a climax heavy on clichés. This is no To Kill a Mockingbird. Hopefully, Eskens will return to form next time. Agent: Amy Cloughley, Kimberley Cameron & Assoc. (Nov.)