Dry Bones in the Valley by Tom Bouman

Just read Dry Bones in the Valley, a fine novel by Tom Bouman which won this year’s Edgar Award for best first mystery.  It takes place in a rural township in Northeast Pennsylvania where many residents have been newly enriched after selling their land’s mineral rights to fracking companies. The fracking angle is a rich one, but what I will remember most about Dry Bones in the Valley is the brief love story Bouman doles out in small tastes through the middle of the narrative. The story involves the book’s protagonist, widower and police officer Henry Farrell, and its themes of loneliness and loss echo through the book’s larger plot. When Farrell was younger he imagined he wanted to be a mountain man. He was traveling cross country and out on a trail in Wyoming when encountered a woman named Polly. They talked for little while and played music together, and he was smitten but didn’t know what to do about it. He continued on his travels for a while, but then decided to double back to Wyoming and stop by the store where she had said she worked. “She smiled so big when she saw me that I knew love right then, then and for all time. I think about it when I need to.” I’ll be looking forward to more from Tom Bouman.

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