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When Ghosts Come Home by Wiley Cash

Wiley Cash’s latest novel, When Ghosts Come Home is damn near the most perfect crime thriller I have ever had the pleasure to read. Propulsive and character driven, I could NOT put this one down, and I stayed up all night to finish it – my heart was pounding by the end. I did not want it my experience with this book to be over when the story concluded.

Winston Barnes, Oak Island, North Carolina’s aging sheriff, appears to be failing in his bid for reelection, when he is awoken by the sound of a plane crash at the nearby municipal airport and arrives first on the scene of an obvious crime. There is enough to fill a novel with tales of Barnes’ detective work that follows, but the real story, the heart of this novel, lies in Mr. Cash’s tender depiction of two families mired in complete turmoil. Barnes is nearly as preoccupied with losing the sheriff’s race as solving this crime, as his wife’s cancer is progressing rapidly, and they will lose their healthcare coverage without his continued employment. Their daughter, Colleen, blows into town from Dallas without her new husband, or any notice to her parents, to grieve the loss of her stillborn child and re-determine the course of her life. Across town, the family of Rodney Bellamy is also picking up the pieces of their shattered lives in the wake of tragedy. Patriarch, Ed Bellamy, a war veteran and respected high school teacher, wants answers in the wake of his son’s mysterious death, and he does not believe he will obtain accurate ones from the Brunswick County Sheriff’s office. Rodney’s wife, Janelle, is overwhelmed caring for the couple’s infant son and her teenage brother, Jay, who recently arrived in town after a skirmish with law enforcement near their parents’ home in Atlanta.

Everyone is a suspect, and tensions are bubbling over between families and political factions as this well-paced novel edges towards its jaw-dropping conclusion. Set in 1984, I hold out hope for a present-day sequel, but until then, I will recommend Mr. Cash’s latest book to anyone looking for a compelling read, and I hope this one raises his national profile substantially, as it should.

When Ghosts Come Home by Wiley Cash, (List Price: $28.99, William Morrow, 9780062312662, September 2021)

Reviewed by Alissa Redmond, South Main Book Company in Salisbury, North Carolina

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