From the publisher: Amanda Baron died in a boating accident on the Ohio River in 1953. Or, did she? While it was generally accepted that she had died when a coal barge rammed the pleasure boat she was sharing with her lover, her body was never found. Travis Baron was an infant when his mother disappeared. After the accident and the subsequent publicity, Travis’ father scoured the house of all evidence that Amanda Baron had ever lived, and her name was never to be uttered around him. Now in high school, Travis yearns to know more about his mother. With the help of his best friend, Mitch Malone, Travis begins a search for the truth about the mother he never knew. The two boys find an unlikely ally: an alcoholic former detective who served time for falsifying evidence. Although his reputation is in tatters, the information the detective provides about the death of Amanda Baron is indisputable - - and dangerous. Nearly two decades after her death, Travis and Mitch piece together a puzzle lost to the dark waters of the Ohio River. They know how Amanda Baron died, and why. Now what do they do with the information?
The writing is terrific. Mitch Malone, the protagonist, in the book’s Prologue talks about his maternal grandfather, who died at 42. The local doctor said it was from a massive heart attack, but “my father said that anyone who knew my grandfather realized he died of acute estrogen exposure.” The family had settled in the coal mining community west of the Ohio River Valley. He had a wife and nine daughters, including a set of triplets. Mitch relates the story, which begins in the summer of 1953 in the town of Brilliant, Ohio (from whence comes the title) and continues, for the most part, through June of 1971. His best friend, Travis, was the only child of Francis “Big Frank” Baron, a violent man, abusive, physically and emotionally, to his son, and his wife, Amanda, whose death starts the tale.
Big Frank was “an old man whose best days had been lost to time and alcohol . . . big, mean, paranoid, hateful . . . who sleeps with a .45 caliber semiautomatic pistol on his nightstand.” But beyond this singular character, the novel is peopled with a wide variety of colorful folks with colorful names, e.g., “Turkeyman” Melman, “a muttering, squatty little man in constant need of a shave and a bath. Then there is the sheriff, Beaumont T. Bonecutter.
The fascinating plot is one whose outcome the reader, or this one at least, could never have guessed. The only problem I had with the book was the author’s predilection for describing the topography and geography in minute detail, to the extent that I found myself skimming through several paragraphs at a time when this became a bit much. Other than that, the fascinating plot is one whose outcome the reader, or this one at least, could never have guessed. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, as I had the author’s debut novel, “Favorite Sons,” and this one as well is recommended....Continua