In a small town where loyalty to family and to 'your people' carries the weight of a sacred oath, defying those unspoken rules can be a deadly proposition. As the mystery of a missing woman's fate plays out, a 15-year-old boy begins to see the stark lines of race and class that both bind and divide this small town—and he will be forced to choose sides.
Acclaimed Minnesota attorney-turned-writer Allen Eskens has taken a sharp turn into new territory with his latest book, a literary novel that explores racial prejudice in mid-1970s Missouri. It’s a heavy theme, butNothing More Dangerous buzzes along with the tempo of a boyhood story that almost tells itself ... The story is gripping and yet reassuring as the boys’ friendship deepens. Their summer adventures exploring the woods take on a Stand By Me quality with Stephen King-like dread around every bend ... a fine mystery that involves layers of racial introspection — persecution, guilt and retribution, important lessons learned in a region where prejudice has been passed down through generations and barely acknowledged for what it is ... The characters are intriguing; some you love and some you hate ... Eskens tells us in an author’s note that he started this book in 1991 and kept putting it away, never quite feeling it was ready. He can proudly pronounce it ready now.
Eskens does an excellent job of weaving these disparate threads together into a fine blend of mystery and coming-of-age novel. The setting is spot-on, the characters are empathetic and well realized, and the plot is clever and compelling, building suspense until a harrowing denouement reveals all.
... a compelling novel that one cannot put down, no matter how painful the reading is at times ... Allen Eskens skillfully creates a three-dimensional character in Boady ... the next best thing to Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, and Boady is an older, occasionally equally insensitive Scout ... Setting, plot, and characterization are masterfully woven together to create a tapestry of a small town as a tinderbox of prejudice, fear, friendship, and dark secrets, needing only a spark to explode into murderous rage ... A magnificent book and an uplifting one, suitable for both adults and YA. Its only blemish, and it is a minor one, is that the Elginses lacked the flaws that would have made them more human ... On a scale of one to ten, Nothing More Dangerous is at least an 11.