In this debut novel, Thornton has skillfully created a hyper-detailed setting of the Nebraska plains ... a gripping mixture of cop procedural and a psychological story of rebirth that gives one man the chance at leaving his past behind. Suspense builds as Harley realizes that redemption hides in the unlikeliest of places, and that the call is coming from inside the house — or in this case, a farmhouse on the edge of town.
Thornton unravels the intrigue and suspense in meticulously detailed fashion in her solid debut novel ... Homesteads—many of which have folded or been abandoned—stretch over hundreds of acres, a detail which Thornton cannily uses to evoke the isolation and lonely frustration that bears down upon the remaining residents ... takes its time; there is no real sense of urgency or high stakes confronting Harley or any of the other characters. The closest thing to a central mystery is the weird series of thefts and break-ins. But Thornton, herself a seventh-generation Nebraskan, describes the landscape and interactions of the characters in such starkly realistic detail, you cannot help but get wrapped up in the novel’s noirish atmosphere and slow-burning mystery.
Rick’s fall from grace is almost unbelievably swift, as if someone flipped a switch, in what is otherwise a well-paced, slow-burn psychological crime thriller ... Thornton leverages the constraints of small-town life to marvelous effect when ratcheting up dramatic tension. Despite being set in the Great Plains, this is a highly claustrophobic tale where unaired grievances and the smallness of small-town life sit on your chest and don’t let up ... Thornton herself is a seventh-generation Nebraskan, and this intimate familiarity shines through in vivid descriptions of hardscrabble life out in western Nebraska ... Thornton balances these lyrical descriptions of place and mood with snappy dialogue that effectively summons small-town shorthand — gruff greetings, hushed speculation, dry quips — which, alongside a steamy affair, grease the narrative and make for a quick read ... This thriller manages to grip readers in a bloodless fashion. Less a mystery than a psychological drama, Thornton presents readers with a convincing character study charting how quickly self-destructive tendencies can veer into full-on self-annihilation, and the many paths one can take to get there.
The quality of the plotting and writing are equally high, and I was thrilled to discover Chris Harding Thornton, who is now on my must-read list ... Thornton is reportedly working on a second novel, and it cannot come soon enough for me. My copy of this one is well-highlighted over her numerous and wonderful turns of phrase and descriptions, which beg to be reread until her next offering appears. There certainly seems to be enough potential for additional tales and trouble in her fictional Nebraska county to fill several more books.
... impressive ... The gut punch of an ending is satisfyingly bleak and an appropriate match for the book’s downbeat tone. Thornton’s superior gift for evocative prose ... augurs well for her next work. Fans of Lou Berney will be pleased.
... slow-burning ... While this is a book in which illicit activity takes place with a law enforcement officer at its center, it’s a particularly measured variety of crime fiction—more concerned with the state of its characters’ souls than the legality (or lack thereof) of their actions. While it takes time to build momentum, the novel ultimately arrives at a heart-wrenching place. All the while, the characterization is helped by Thornton’s lean, lyrical prose ... The slow start can be frustrating, but the narrative payoff is eminently worthwhile ... At its best, a gripping meditation on betrayals new and old.