cover image Blackwood


Michael Farris Smith. Little, Brown, $27 (304p) ISBN 978-0-316-52981-5

In Smith’s haunting, engrossing latest (after The Fighter), strangers awaken an evil force lurking in a small Southern town. In 1976 Red Bluff, Miss., storefronts are empty and boarded up after a long economic downturn. One humid summer, an unnamed man, woman, and boy arrive. While camping in a broken-down Cadillac under cover of creeping kudzu, the man hears whispers in the vines that drive him insane and cause him to kill the woman and cover himself in mud. After twin boys disappear, four lives intersect and secrets begin to emerge from 20 years earlier: Sheriff Myer, a man trying to forget the day he found a young boy staring at the hanged body of his father; Celia, a bar owner struggling with the scribbled psychic premonitions her dead mother left in a trunk; Colburn, a metal sculptor who returned to Red Bluff 20 years after he and Myer found Colburn’s father hanging; and the young boy from the Cadillac, on the run from the deranged man he arrived with. As the four enter the dark landscape, their dangerous search for the missing twins driven by a need for redemption, they confront an evil on a scale they’d never imagined. Smith’s meditation on the darkness of the human heart offers a moving update to the Southern gothic tradition. (Mar.)