Hank Early’s Echoes of the Fall is an updated, modern take on noir detective novels with a Southern Gothic edge, trading gritty urban streets for seedy small town life in north Georgia’s Coulee County, where religion and violence are always close bedfellows.
At fifty-three, Earl is a broken man looking for salvation in all the wrong places. Deep down, he doesn’t believe he deserves it. When he wakes up from a blackout night on the suspension bridge over Backslide Gap, he’s ready to let himself fall for good. But life has other plans, as evinced by the dead body he finds planted on his front lawn.
Discovering the identity of this dead man leads Earl to the Harden School, a private boys’ institution for “difficult” students. But the Harden School also has a shady history with dead bodies, and Earl only has to scratch to the surface to see that all isn’t as it seems to be. The Harden School is a front for gay conversion therapy. What ensues is both appalling and thrilling.
Coulee County may be one of the only places “where a man could lose himself and still be within ten miles of everything else,” but the novel doesn’t use that as an excuse to lose sight of the differences large and small. The novel is direct, whether about the white supremacy that goes hand-in-hand with political power or the fact that its hero is flawed but working on it.
Solving the case means addressing some of the most terrible trends in modern history. For Earl, there aren’t easy answers for those the law isn’t willing to help, and “there’s always a fine line between secret knowledge and death.”
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