STARRED REVIEW
August 2018

A haunting tale of revenge

By David Joy

The plot of David Joy’s third novel, The Line That Held Us, is simple: A man accidentally kills another man and tries to cover it up with the help of a friend, while the murdered man’s brother seeks vengeance on them. The complexity of the novel comes in Joy’s evocative language, his unforgettable characters and how he weaves themes of family, friendship and justice throughout this darkly engrossing Southern crime noir.

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The plot of David Joy’s third novel, The Line That Held Us, is simple: A man accidentally kills another man and tries to cover it up with the help of a friend, while the murdered man’s brother seeks vengeance on them. The complexity of the novel comes in Joy’s evocative language, his unforgettable characters and how he weaves themes of family, friendship and justice throughout this darkly engrossing Southern crime noir.

Blood is spilled and revenge is inevitable in David Joy’s darkly engrossing third novel.

The novel’s bleak chain of events evokes memories of Joel and Ethan Coen’s Fargo, in which one ill-advised decision leads to another, and each new lie spirals out of control. Joy presents Darl Moody, a stereotypical Southern-by-the-grace-of-God country boy, whose hunting expedition in the backwoods of North Carolina goes awry when he shoots and kills Carol Brewer, another local yokel who was scavenging the forest for ginseng. Realizing what he’s done and not wanting to risk facing the law, Darl enlists the aid of lifelong best friend Calvin Hooper to secretly bury Carol’s body.

After Carol’s brother, Dwayne, discovers his brother is missing, it’s only a matter of time before he uncovers the truth. Of course, Dwayne has his own sense of justice—one that doesn’t involve the police—and neither Darl nor Calvin can escape his wrath. Calvin, meanwhile, wrestles with his sense of loyalty to Darl and his guilty conscience.

The law ultimately gets into the fray, but far too late to keep the impending violence at bay and the body count from stacking up.

Joy has been heralded for his ability to craft a powerful sense of place in his previous novels (Where All Light Tends to Go and The Weight of This World). He does so again in The Line That Held Us, bringing the Appalachian region and lifestyle to life. But it is his unforgettable characters and their moral dilemmas that will stay with you in the end.

 

This article was originally published in the August 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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