cover image A Brilliant Death

A Brilliant Death

Robin Yocum. Prometheus Books/Seventh Street, $15.95 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-63388-128-0

In this engrossing coming-of-age mystery set in the postindustrial town of Brilliant, Ohio, from Yocum (Favorite Sons), journalist Mitch Malone agrees to help his best friend, Travis Baron, find out about Travis’s mother. Amanda Baron and a lover apparently died in a boating accident on the Ohio River in 1953 when Travis was a baby, but no bodies were ever found. Travis, who grew up in the same house as his often-absent, widely feared father, Big Frank, knows nothing of his mother, not even what she looked like. Mitch and Travis’s quest for answers involves visiting a graveyard at midnight, sorting through old newspaper clippings on microfilm, scouring police reports, and rooting around Big Frank’s attic. Most enlightening is their interview with a former detective, who believes Amanda was murdered, possibly by Big Frank. Vivid local color and a satisfying portrait of boyhood friendship more than compensate for a confusing beginning and some head-scratching plot twists. Agent: Colleen Mohyde, Doe Coover Agency. (Apr.)