Sentence: I was fifteen the day I learned that Ms. Lida Poe
had gone missing.
Set in the 1970s, Eskens gifts his
readers with a story that deals with a mystery, bigotry, and
a young man growing up in an environment that makes him decide
who and what he believes and for what he stands.
It is so nice to read a book whose
story starts on the first page and continues straight on through;
no prologue and a single Point of View. Beginning with relating
a memory, Eskins' voice as a true storyteller is apparent—"I
knew that President Ford has his hands full trying to beat
out an actor named Ronald Reagan for the Republican nomination,
but what any of that had to do with the price of a turnip
down at the IGA--I couldn't tell you."
Eskens creates a sense of time without
giving you a specific date and he creates a sense of place
through some of the most evocative descriptions one will find—"…Soon
I found myself sitting in the crux of my favorite oak tree,
watching the afternoon sun ripple across the surface of Dixon's
pond, the smell of mud and water in my nose, the feel of tree
bark under my bare feet." His humor is subtle; it slides
in without one really noticing—"Personally, I didn't
find it hard to believe that someone had up and left Jessup;
what baffled me was why more people didn't do it.
The characters, both good and bad,
are real and recognizable—"Hoke wore his sixty
plus years like an old book. ... Sitting close to him, you
could see the loose ends of a past that Hoke never talked
The descriptions of Brodie's life as
a teen are wonderfully representative of life in a rural area
have a timelessness about them, yet we are also reminded of
the bigotry that is pervasive in many such areas--"I
mean, there's no reason there ain't no black quarterbacks
playing pro football. They can run as fast and block and stuff,
but they ain't as smart as whites. That don't make 'em bad
people. They're just different. ... I think that if a black
man sets his mind to it, he can be just as good as a white
man." There is also the pressure to conform and the way
hatred and racism spreads--"You put enough like-minded
idiots in a room, and pretty soon their backward way of thinking
starts to take on an air of legitimacy."
One wants the book to be perfect, and
it nearly is. But not quite. There are a couple of unfortunate
and completely unnecessary portents. There are coincidences
which make one shake one's head believing the author could
have done better. There is a rather predictable wounding of
our hero that feels as though the author watched one too many
detective shows. Fortunately, one can forgive those weaknesses
in contrast to the story of Hoke, his pain, and how he met
Brodie, and how impactful is the story overall.
"Nothing More Dangerous"
is a story of friendship, bigotry, violence, fate, and redemption.
It is also a beautiful story that touches one's heart.