A young boy finds himself at the center of a murder mystery in this timely and twisty thriller from the author of the acclaimed The Lost Girls―a compelling and indelible story set in small town America that examines the burden of guilt, the bitter price of forgiveness, and the debts we owe our dead, both recent and distant.
A body burns in the high desert hills. A young boy walks into a fire station, pale with the shock of a grisly discovery. A middle school teacher worries when her colleague is late for work. By day’s end, when the body is identified as local math teacher Adam Merkel, a small Nevada town will begin its reckoning with a brutal and calculated murder.
Adam Merkel left a university professorship to teach middle school math in Lovelock seven months before he died. A quiet, seemingly unremarkable man, he connected with only one of his students: Sal Prentiss, a lonely sixth grader who lives on a remote ranch in the hills with his uncles. The two outcasts developed a tender, trusting friendship that brought each of them hope in the wake of tragedy. But it is Sal who finds Adam’s body…
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PRAISE AND RECOGNITION:
“[The Distant Dead] is at heart about the timeliness of human curiosity, the eternal possibility of forgiveness, and the everyday miracle of survival. Electrifying, ambitious, and crushingly beautiful.” —- Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“This second stunning piece of redemptive fiction from Heather Young…puts a young boy at the center of a murder mystery and surrounds him with adults struggling with stinging regrets, karmic debts, and unresolved guilt over the loved ones they have lost. Finely woven into the narrative is a profound consideration of the transience of life…an ideal recommendation for fans of Kate Atkinson and Jodi Picoult.” — Booklist (starred review)
“The suspense is slow and steady in this meditative, artistic take on the murder mystery—the author’s language is poetic, and her contemplation of the corrosiveness of suppressed emotion is both sympathetic and impatient: When will people learn? This is an unusual, compelling portrait of a people and a place where the future always seems impossibly far away.” — Bookpage (starred review)
“A young boy finds a charred corpse in the dusty hills outside his Nevada town. Young’s steady, meditative mystery uses this premise as an entry point to explore regret, isolation and loss.” — Bookpage, Top Ten Mystery and Suspense Books of 2020
“Powerful and poignant.” — People (also named one of Twenty Books to Read This Summer)
“The Distant Dead is a breathtaking read, with flawed and authentic characters who hit so close to home that at times it is impossible not to root for them, just as we might for those closest to us.” — San Francisco Chronicle
“This emotionally resonant saga, firmly rooted in the high desert hills, will keep readers turning the pages.” — Publishers Weekly
“A searing, powerful story.” — CrimeReads (also named one of the most anticipated crime reads of the summer)
“Bright, flawless writing, wonderful characters, and a sense of pacing that ratchets up the tension—what more could you want from a thriller? I loved this book.” — Rene Denfield, bestselling author of The Child Finder and The Butterfly Girl
“With her usual blend of inventive storytelling and gorgeous prose, Heather Young delivers big themes and a poignant coming of age story in this complex, page-turning mystery/thriller…The Distant Dead is not to be missed.” — James McLaughlin, author of Bearskin
“The Distant Dead is a novel populated with angels and demons. Throughout this engrossing examination of home and family, forgiveness and revenge, Young skillfully weaves in the devastation of America’s opioid epidemic and the claustrophobia of small-town life.” — Mystery Scene