Cold skin by Steven Herrick

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Herrick's finely tuned verse novels are deceptively simple, as they describe a setting, elucidate a set of characters, unfold a plot, while you are lulled by the rhythmic nature of the writing. Before you know it you are engrossed, surprising yourself as you see links and plot developments, character foibles and hints of what may be ahead.

Larry and Eddie Holding are at school, a one teacher place, but they'd rather be working at the mine like everyone else in this one job town. Their father, a returned serviceman, is dejected; feeling cowardly because he didn't see overseas action during the war, and despite their poverty, will not allow his sons to go down the mine.

The small town is delineated by its inhabitants, a mayor who runs the local store, rich and proud, a policeman who wants to do well for his town, a teacher disenchanted with rural life and the lack of women, a publisher who sees all, and goes about his job quietly. When one night a young girl is found murdered, the town looks inward, closing ranks. Malice and suspicion ferments as Eddie watches, noting movement, the other watchers, the drunks and then his father, hiding something and unable to be at peace.

The climax of the story will shock and extend your students' discussions of right and wrong, of consequences and morality.

Fran Knight