Monday, March 22, 2021

Nothing More Dangerous - Allen Eskens


Nothing More Dangerous,
by Allen Eskens, is set in mid-1970s small-town Missouri where fifteen-year-old Boady Sanden lives alone with his mother. Boady, a high school freshman, is very much an outsider at the Catholic school he’s attending for the first time. He spends his days there either being completely ignored by his classmates or bullied by some of the older boys - and Boady’s one real goal in life is to save enough money so that he can leave town on his own as soon as he turns sixteen. He’s had just about all of life in rural Missouri that he can stand.


Things start to change, though, when a black family - who have a son near Boady’s age - move into the old house across the road from the Sandens. Young Thomas Elgin is a city boy, and now he is as unhappy about being stuck in rural Missouri as Boady is. Neither boy particularly wants to admit that they need a friend, but because no one else their age lives within shouting distance of the isolated road they live on, the boys find it hard to ignore - or avoid - each other. After a rough start, surprising themselves, they become close friends. And that’s when things begin to turn ugly.


Lida Poe, the black bookkeeper at the area’s plastics factory has supposedly disappeared along with at least one hundred thousand dollars of the company’s money. Her disappearance is all anyone in town can talk about, but it shouldn’t have a thing to do with Boady and Thomas, or their friendship. And it doesn’t, until the two boys go camping and decide to do a little snooping on their own. What they discover out in the woods starts a chain of events that will prove deadly dangerous to Boady, Thomas, and some of the people closest to them.


I experienced Nothing More Dangerous via its audiobook version, and if you enjoy audiobooks at all, I recommend this one. Kevin Stillwell, the audiobook narrator, uses a combination good-old-boy/country drawl delivery that gives life to the story being told by young Boady Sanden. Stillwell’s atmospheric voice enhances the innocence with which Boady begins telling his story while slowly coming to the realization that what he thinks he knows about his hometown and its people is not at all as simple as he has believed it to be. 


Bottom Line: Nothing More Dangerous is a coming-of-age novel in which two boys, in just a few short weeks, are forced to learn the harsh realities of the world they live in. Thomas experiences a level of racism he had not known in the city, and Boady figures out some things about himself, those closest to him, and his own culture that he never suspected. The boys “grow up” to a degree that neither could have done on their own; they could have only done it together. This one has a bit of a “fairy tale” feel to it, but I totally bought in to it in the long run. 


Allen Eskens

14 comments:

  1. So many elements of this one make me want to read it, but mostly because of the two boys and their friendship.

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    1. It's really a nicely told story, and I ended up liking it more than I expected to, really. It's a little too pat at times, but that really doesn't distract from the story enough to bother me.

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    1. Now that Eskens is on my radar, I hope to read some of his others, Diane. Looking forward to it.

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  3. Like you said, it's a little too pat at times, but I loved this story.

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    1. Yet another one I learned of via your reviews, Cathy. The guy is a great storyteller.

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  4. It sounds so good and I shall look into it. Have you read Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin, Sam? It's a similar kind of story by the sound of it and I thought it was 'excellent'. The setting was rural Mississippi.

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    1. I don't know that one, Cath...I'll look into it. Thanks for the recommendation.

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    2. I had a look at Nothing More Dangerous on Amazon and as it was really reasonable for Kindle I bought it. Keen to get on to some different books but am reading Dan Simmons' The Abominable which is 666 pages long.... and is telling me more about the mechanics of mountaineering than I ever really wanted to know. LOL

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    3. I hope you like it, Cath. Do keep in mind that it's a piece of "historical fiction" even though it only goes back about 50 years in time. Sometimes it's hard to tell that during the story, and I had to keep reminding myself.

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  5. I love the cover and the sound of this one.

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    1. Ha, it was the cover that got my immediate attention when Cathy reviewed it a few days ago. Thankfully, it lived up to the cover.

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  6. This sounds excellent. My youngest is adopted and mixed-race. She's lived in the same (predominantly white) community her whole life, but I do worry about the racism she might experience when she goes out into the wider world. I'm curious to see how this story addresses that issue. Thanks for the rec!

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    1. Susan, the book does address that issue to a degree. The black teen is shocked by what he finds in rural Missouri and the white teen manages to offend him on numerous occasions by using the slang he's grown up with. One of the best things about the book is the way their friendship develops into a real one when they learn to quit tip-toeing around each other and just be themselves.

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