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Dry Bones in the Valley: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Tom Bouman
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)

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Book Description

When an elderly recluse discovers a corpse on his land, Officer Henry Farrell follows the investigation to strange places in the countryside, and into the depths of his own frayed soul.

In Wild Thyme, Pennsylvania, secrets and feuds go back generations. The lone policeman in a small township on the sparse northern border, Henry Farrell expected to spend his mornings hunting and fishing, his evenings playing old-time music. Instead, he has watched the steady encroachment of gas drilling bring new wealth and erode neighborly trust. The drug trade is pushing heroin into the territory. There are outlaws cooking meth in the woods, guys Henry grew up with. When a stranger turns up dead, Henry’s search for the killer will open old wounds, dredge up ancient crimes, and exact a deadly price.

With vivid characters and flawless pacing, Tom Bouman immerses readers in rural northeastern Pennsylvania, a region in the grip of change. In these derelict woods full of whitetail deer and history, the hunt is on.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

When an unidentified body is found under a boulder on an old man’s land in rural Pennsylvania, the murder investigation reveals that the patchwork assembly of area law enforcement is paper-thin. And, when a second body is discovered, the lawmen find themselves even more shorthanded. Wild Thyme Township police officer Henry Farrell, a bearded, brooding veteran, throws himself into the case, working past the point of exhaustion and neglecting his own health as he navigates personal boundaries that must be considered in the context of property lines. A landscape wracked by fracking, poverty, meth, and a general mistrust of authority places this squarely in the burgeoning country-noir tradition, as does the fact that Bouman peoples his story with lawless outdoorsmen with Gaelic names and ancient grudges. (Farrell, who plays a passable fiddle, used music to court his bodhran-beating wife.) A dark ending unearths a long-held secret but leaves enough ambiguity to suggest plenty of tales to tell in future installments. A strong debut for readers who like their woods dark and deep. --Keir Graff


Raymond Chandler said that Hammett took murder away from the manor houses and gave it back to the people who actually commit it. Tom Bouman continues that tradition. Bouman's story is deceptively simple, layered with history, bearing the promise of lightness, of redemption. --James Sallis, author of Drive"

Product Details

  • File Size: 441 KB
  • Print Length: 289 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0393243028
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (July 1, 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #87,651 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars wow July 5, 2014
By jean p
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I read this first novel after a positive review in the Crime section of the New York Times. I read a lot of fiction, especially mystery/crime. This is the best thing I've read this year. The first person narrator, Harry, sounds like he is a guy telling you a story by a campfire, the voice is that real. I don't know that I've given a five-star rating since Louise Erdrich's Round House, but I don't hesitate with this book. Read it people!!
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars GREAT PLOT, GREAT READ! July 2, 2014
Dry Bones in the Valley by Tom Bouman is a dark mystery thriller set in rural northeastern Pennsylvania. Tucked away in this almost forgotten corner is the sleepy small town of Wild Thyme. The town comes to life when natural gas drilling started in the area, bringing wealth to the people who have been living in perpetual poverty. But it comes with a heavy! It sowed the seed of discord as some people are against fracking while others welcome it as a boon. Drugs and illegal activities are on the rise.

When an unidentified corpse is discovered by a half-crazy elderly person, it is up to policeman Henry Farrell to put into use for the first time in his career what he has been trained to do. The investigation leads to the unraveling of old crimes which have serious consequences in the present. Henry Farrell has to tread cautiously as it is much more complicated than it appeared to be. Author Tom Bouman writes a story that is interesting, absorbing and suspenseful. The characters are well-developed, the storyline is quite original and the plot twists and turns will keep the reader engaged to the very last page.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Appalachian Murder-Mystery June 20, 2014
I received a free advanced copy of this book in exchange for a review.

This Appalachian murder-mystery is more mountain ballad than cozy, but unlike the mountain ballads, this story is about modern Appalachia, drawing on current issues like meth-labs and gas-drilling that's destroying/poisoning the natural environment. Some people may not like the tone of the book - it's a melancholic-romance, typical of the mountain ballads and what cozy can be found is in the heritage of the mountain ballads that it resembles.

In places, the prose is beautiful and quotable, if I had a copy of the finished product to quote, but there are a couple patchy spots where one paragraph doesn't blend seamlessly into the next.

I love that I didn't solve the murder until the end. The mystery is wrapped up in many threads - some focused more on introducing Officer Henry Farrell's world -Wild Thyme, Pennsylvania- than the murder, but this was used in a way that made the investigation feel more realistic than what's usually found in cozy-mysteries. I will be watching for the second installment of this series.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
For me, the best part of this book is the author's evocation of a world completely new to me: the marginal, poor, unemployed and largely uneducated world of a piece of mountainous and rural northeast Pennsylvania. The pervasive presence of drugs - mostly meth - has essentially completed the marginalization of large parts of this community. The problem is that the sheer hopelessness of the situation made it difficult going - toward the end, I was tempted to disengage. But the author writes very well and he has created a character in the tenacious small-town cop with a heartbreaking back story who could carry a series if the reader was given some reason to hope for him.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars great debut July 23, 2014
I bought this book on the basis of a rave review from the Washington Post. I agree with the reviewer that this is an outstanding debut. Some points, both good and bad:

1. I have spent some time in the area where this novel it set and have never encountered anything like the life described by this author. For a writer to give me a completely different view of a familiar landscape was just fantastic.
2. He is just a good writer. A weak point here and there was more than balanced by some passages of truly terrific writing.
3. On the minus side, he left some loose ends. It seems to be common practice nowadays to leave readers hanging in some way. In a mystery novel I just find this unacceptable. In this case, we learned who committed the crime but not how or why. Very unsatisfying,
4. Also on the minus side, I have to question the wisdom of inventing for a detective a cop so introverted and avoidant of human company that he misses important things going on under his nose in his own office.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Great, sinister, surprising book. Henry Farrell, the narrator and protagonist, is a wonderful and curious, indefatigable sad sack; early on, he eats a cold waffle with peanut butter on it--liked him, immediately--and I'm not sure he ate or slept from the rest of the book. Concussed, confused, bedeviled by his past, he gets to the bottom of some very surprising mysteries. At its heart, this is a strange thriller-mystery, and it should be said that it satisfies on all levels; I mean, I really read with abandon, wanted to know what would happen, and then I would surprise. But other thrillers that I've read have often disappointed me on the level of writing; they can be rife with cliches and lazy/bad characterization (in my highbrow opinion); Bouman writes so beautifully, here, and the patience with which he builds his world and brings dimension to a wide cast of characters is really a wonder. Also, plenty of wilderness know-how and firearms and ATVs!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Much more than just an excellent mystery!
Some books are just made for some readers and Dry Bones in the Valley was really a great read for me. Read more
Published 3 days ago by Julie25TX
5.0 out of 5 stars this is a beautifully written book that presents the reader with a...
Briefly, this is a beautifully written book that presents the reader with a solid mystery and a satisfying journey to the solution. Read more
Published 13 days ago by michael d miller
4.0 out of 5 stars A Literate Debut
Solitary and introverted, Henry Farrell probably wasn’t meant to be a cop. But that’s the job he found after military service and the one he resumes on coming home to northeastern... Read more
Published 1 month ago by John R. Lindermuth
4.0 out of 5 stars This is a very good book and a worthy contender for the Mystery...
This is a very good book and a worthy contender for the Mystery Writers of America "Edgar" award. There are plots and subplots. Read more
Published 1 month ago by F. Cook
3.0 out of 5 stars it's a good, quick read but I've read a lot better
I bought this book based on a review of it that said Bouman was a "serious writer"of an "exciting and disturbing debut" novel. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Maltese Falcon
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
I don't remember buying this.
Published 1 month ago by Erin Grady
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
very pleased
Published 1 month ago by donna o'neal
5.0 out of 5 stars A solid effort.\
This is a very good is, for the most part, well written with solid characters and a well thought and executed plot... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Edwin J. O'Farrell
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, beautiful, must read book.
This is a beautiful book, which is not always easy to say about a mystery or police procedural. I read a lot of books, and I had tried to read a book yesterday that was so... Read more
Published 2 months ago by N. Gargano
4.0 out of 5 stars Trouble Comes to Wild Thyme, Pennsylvania
A veteran of the Iraq war and a recent widower, Henry Farrell is a natural born loner who prefers his own company to that of anyone else. Read more
Published 3 months ago by James L. Thane
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