Detective Joe “Preach” Everson never expected to return to his sleepy hometown of Creekville, North Carolina. Formerly a star detective in Atlanta, he suffered a breakdown while investigating a serial killer who preyed on children. Creekville hasn’t had a murder in more than a decade—it’s the perfect place to recuperate. Until the first body is discovered.
And this isn’t just an everyday murder. A local bookstore owner is killed, the body arranged in a facsimile of the murder in Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. Soon there’s another murder, this one recalling Poe’s story, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” Is this the work of another serial killer? Will Preach be able to cope with the stress?
And there’s plenty of stress. Preach is the only detective in town with any experience in investigating homicides. His new partner, Scott Kirby, is young and inexperienced but itching to become famous. Most of Preach’s high-school friends have stayed in town, and several are still holding a grudge about the way he left them behind. Preach finds himself attracted to Ariana Hale, a law student and bookstore employee, but his attraction may be placing her in danger. Then there’s the local crime boss, who may or may not be involved in the Creekville murders but definitely wants the police out of his business.
Green, author of the Dominic Grey series, juggles these characters with a sure hand. Creekville has hipster bohemians—new residents who moved there to be close to Chapel Hill—rubbing elbows with old-timers. Then there are folks with a foot in both worlds, like Preach’s boss, Chief Higgins: “Preach knew she drank herbal tea and practiced yoga and shopped at the co-op, but she’d also told him about growing up poor in a small town outside Fayetteville. She belonged to that class of scrappy Southern women far removed from the debutante set: nurturing, but tough as a cast-iron skillet. Trailer parks instead of subdivisions, Folgers instead of Starbucks, pork rinds over sweet potato soufflé.” This cultural intermingling complicates Preach’s investigation. Is he looking for a psychopathic literature professor? Or are the literary clues just a way to steer Preach down the wrong path? Is someone from his own past involved?
Even experienced mystery fans may be surprised at some of the plot twists and revelations in Written in Blood, but they are honestly come by. Creekville is no Mayberry: its dark secrets leave very few unscathed. Dostoevsky and Poe would be proud.
Faye Jones, dean of learning resources at Nashville State Community College, writes the Jolly Librarian blog for the college’s Mayfield Library. She earned her doctorate in nineteenth-century literature at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.