Archive for June 9th, 2020

The Distant Dead


The Distant Dead by Heather Young

A young boy finds himself at the center of a murder mystery in this timely and twisty thriller from the author of the acclaimed The Lost Girls—a compelling and indelible story set in small town America that examines the burden of guilt, the bitter price of forgiveness, and the debts we owe our dead, both recent and distant.

A body burns in the high desert hills. A boy walks into a fire station, pale with the shock of a grisly discovery. A middle school teacher worries when her colleague is late for work. By day’s end, when the body is identified as local math teacher Adam Merkel, a small Nevada town will be rocked to its core by a brutal and calculated murder.

Adam Merkel left a university professorship in Reno to teach middle school in Lovelock seven months before he died. A quiet, seemingly unremarkable man, he connected with just one of his students: Sal Prentiss, a lonely sixth grader who lives with his uncles on a desolate ranch in the hills. The two outcasts developed a tender, trusting friendship that brought each of them hope in the wake of tragedy. But it is Sal who finds Adam’s body, charred almost beyond recognition, half a mile from his uncles’ compound.

Nora Wheaton, the middle school’s social studies teacher, dreamed of a life far from Lovelock only to be dragged back on the eve of her college graduation to care for her disabled father, a man she loves but can’t forgive. She sensed in the new math teacher a kindred spirit–another soul bound to Lovelock by guilt and duty. After Adam’s death, she delves into his past for clues to who killed him and finds a dark history she understands all too well. But the truth about his murder may lie closer to home. For Sal Prentiss’s grief seems heavily shaded with fear, and Nora suspects he knows more than he’s telling about how his favorite teacher died. As she tries to earn the wary boy’s trust, she finds he holds not only the key to Adam’s murder, but an unexpected chance at the life she thought she’d lost.

Weaving together the last months of Adam’s life, Nora’s search for answers, and a young boy’s anguished moral reckoning, this unforgettable thriller brings a small American town to vivid life, filled with complex, flawed characters wrestling with the weight of the past, the promise of the future, and the bitter freedom that forgiveness can bring.

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Heather   Young

About the Author

Heather Young is the author of the awarding-winning and Edgar nominated novel The Lost Girls and the forthcoming novel The Distant Dead (June 9, 2020). She holds an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars and a Fellowship from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. She lives in Mill Valley, California.

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My Review

4 stars

Sal Prentiss is 11 years old and doesn’t have any friends except his math teacher, Adam Merkel. He lives with his uncles, one that sells prescription pills and is trying to get Sal to deal for him. Sal discovers a burned body and reports it but it is clear that he knows more than he is telling.

Nora Wheaton is a teacher that found a kindred spirit in Adam and is worried when he doesn’t show up for work one day. By the end of the day it is clear that the burned body is Adam. Nora enlists the help of her ex, Mason Green the chief deputy and a volunteer firefighter, Jake Sanchez.

Nora is determined to find out what happened to Adam. But first she needs to gain the trust of Sal to learn what he knows about Adam’s death. What follows is a slow burning mystery story involving a small town in Nevada, a drug epidemic, poverty, guilt, sadness and so much more.

Knowing that I live in Reno I was curious to see what was going on in Lovelock. What I found was people doing the best they could where they were at. Nora had tried to get out of town but finds herself back to take care of her aging father. This is complicated by strong feeling she has against him. She really thought she found someone special with Adam and is rather upset about his death.

But my heart goes out to Sal. He is in a bad situation with nowhere to go. I wanted to scoop him up and protect him from his uncles. I was cheering for him and hoping he would come out of this in the best way possible.

This is a slow rolling story that kept me interested through the whole thing. I admit that when I thought I might know where we were going there was a great twist that changed everything up. If this is something that you like I would recommend checking out The Distant Dead. If you are looking for a more action-packed story you may not enjoy this story as much. But it is still worth checking out.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. I voluntarily chose to read and post an honest review.

I would like to thank Beth at Beth Parker PR for the opportunity to read and share this book.

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