Harper Collins, Dec 2002, 24.95, 304 pp.
Charley LeBlanc comes from a rich and powerful Tidewater, Virginia family, but that doesn't mean he had an easy life. His father was a drunken abusive person so Charley left home to join the army and served in Vietnam. He was dishonorably discharged and did hard time in Leavenworth. He finally has his act together living with his lover Mildred “Blackie' Spurlock in an isolated area of Montana.
He and Blackie return to Cliffside in Shawnee County, West Virginia to check up on Aunt Jessie Arbuckle, a woman who befriended him when many others turned their backs on him. He arrives to find Aunt Jessie dead and Esmeralda, a homeless woman who depended on the charity of Shawnee County to feed and clothe her, charged with her murder. Charley knows through the ties that bind him to Esmeralda that the wrong person is locked away and he intends to find the real perpetrator.
William Hoffman uses words to convey colorful images in the mind's eye so that the reader senses the environment that the flawed protagonist struggles to adapt to so he can have a peaceful life. Charley is an anti-hero who makes very serious mistakes but is likable because of the tenderness he shows to those few people that he cares about. The story line is beautiful in its simplicity but the author writes about complex people who are put in difficult situations and that makes this novel a fabulous read.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner