Rash’s newest novel is a murder mystery with echoes of The Brothers Karamazov. As always with Rash, the themes feel Faulknerian (as in “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”) And of course the writing is beautiful. I even wondered if he was also offering a pulpy tip of the hat to Poe in naming the dead girl at the heart of this story “Ligeia,” which is the title of an early story by Poe about addiction and the pull of a seductive woman who returns from the dead.
But for all those literary resonances, plot stays at the forefront this time out. The Risen is fast moving murder mystery with two unreliable narrators. Brothers Eugene and Bill Matney are in late middle age—now a drunk and successful surgeon respectively—when the bones of a seductive girl from a teen summer long ago surface along the river in their town. The whodunit pinballs back and forth until a final reveal that would do Faulkner proud.
You can always expect good review coverage for Ron Rash. And this is a September Indie Next pick.
“Contrary to what the brothers have always believed, Ligeia didn’t just leave town that summer. With her sudden resurrection, the most disturbing questions around what actually happened all those years before sets Eugene out to get the truth from his estranged brother, Bill, now a successful surgeon in the small North Carolina town where they grew up. Rash invites readers into the lush Carolina hinterland where blissful innocence and larger cultural currents clash with deep consequences for malleable Eugene. Beyond the propulsion of Rash’s thrilling whodunit plot is his characteristically excellent prose.”
— Publishers Weekly
“[A] character-driven plot with a mystery at its core, centered on two brothers, now in their sixties and still living in Sylva, their small North Carolina hometown. The long-buried remains of a young woman are discovered as the novel opens, propelling Eugene and Bill Matney back to 1969. That summer, before Bill, 21, headed to med school, he and Eugene, 16, met the lovely, sensual Ligeia. At 17 she was more worldly than either brother, and had been banished to Sylva to stay with relatives far away from the allure of Daytona’s drug scene…. When the past suddenly confronts them, the rift grows wider, and Rash pulls the reader in with an element of suspense injected into his astute exploration of the clash of cultures, past and present.
The Risen (9780062436313) by Ron Rash. $25.99 hardcover. 9/6/16 on sale