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One of Us
by Tawni O'Dell
When Danny visits his home town of Lost Creek, he is just as lost as the name of his hometown implies. He comes to check on his grandfather, who at 96, is in much better shape than his other family members. His father has always been abusive and distant, and his mother has struggled with mental illness as long as he can remember. When a local business man is found dead at the infamous town gallows, Danny is forced to confront his demons in both psychological and physical ways.
Lost Creek is a mining town and is and always has been, controlled by the one family that owns the mine. Danny is a small-town boy made good by becoming a successful psychologist and author. Perhaps his experience in solving crimes can help solve the death at the gallows and the haunting events that lead to the gallows being built; the execution of several young men for defying the coal boss.
O'Dell deftly describes life in a coal mining town both at its peak and in its wane; you can almost feel the coal dust settle on the pages as you read. The dichotomy between Danny's city life and the one he has left behind is almost a character in and of itself. Each character is drawn out until you feel as if you have known them just as well as Danny has.
One of Us is as much a drama as it is a well-told thriller. The pacing creates the feeling of living in a small town, without ever being too slow. Flashbacks of the town in the crux of the mining boom help to add details to the town's complicated existence. I would recommend On of Us to those who like an engaging story with meaty characters. I'm almost jealous that you'll get the experience of reading this book for the first time!