A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Nothing More Dangerous by Allen Eskens- Feature and Review


In a small town where loyalty to family and to “your people” carries the weight of a sacred oath, defying those unspoken rules can be a deadly proposition.

After fifteen years of growing up in the Ozark hills with his widowed mother, high-school freshman Boady Sanden is beyond ready to move on. He dreams of glass towers and cityscapes, driven by his desire to be anywhere other than Jessup, Missouri. The new kid at St. Ignatius High School, if he isn’t being pushed around, he is being completely ignored. Even his beloved woods, his playground as a child and his sanctuary as he grew older, seem to be closing in on him, suffocating him.

Then Thomas Elgin moves in across the road, and Boady’s life begins to twist and turn. Coming to know the Elgins--a black family settling into a community where notions of “us” and “them” carry the weight of history--forces Boady to rethink his understanding of the world he’s taken for granted. Secrets hidden in plain sight begin to unfold: the mother who wraps herself in the loss of her husband, the neighbor who carries the wounds of a mysterious past that he holds close, the quiet boss who is fighting his own hidden battle.

But the biggest secret of all is the disappearance of Lida Poe, the African-American woman who keeps the books at the local plastics factory. Word has it that Ms. Poe left town, along with a hundred thousand dollars of company money. Although Boady has never met the missing woman, he discovers that the threads of her life are woven into the deepest fabric of his world.

As the mystery of her fate plays out, Boady begins to see the stark lines of race and class that both bind and divide this small town, and he is forced to choose sides.



Nothing More DangerousNothing More Dangerous by Allen Eskens
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Nothing More Dangerous by Allen Eskens is a 2019 Mulholland publication.

An impressive piece of literary crime fiction!

Set in the rural town of Jessup, Missouri during the 1970s, this novel is a compelling mystery, coupled with a poignant coming of age story, carrying a timely message.

Boady, a fifteen-year-old living with his widowed mother, experiences an awakening after a Black woman named Lida Poe, disappears after allegedly embezzling a tidy sum of money from the local manufacturing plant where she worked as a bookkeeper.

As a result of this development, The Elgins', an African American family, moves into the house across the road from Boady. Mr. Elgin will be the new manager at the plant, and is wife becomes a wonderful influence on Boady's reclusive mother. Although they get off to a bumpy start, he and Thomas Elgin, a boy close to his age, strike up a close friendship.

Meanwhile Boady is under pressure to stab his new friend in the back, forcing him to walk a dangerous tightrope, until a gruesome discovery puts him in a life or death situation that will not only reveal the racist underbelly of his community, it will shape Boady into the man he will eventually become.

While the story has its moments of intense suspense, it is Boady’s effectual journey that sets this book apart, making it far more than your average novel of mystery and suspense.

The book addresses the obvious incidents of hardcore, violent racism, but it also points a searing finger at the more subtle forms of racism and the tone -deaf damage and pain casually inflicted without a second thought.

I loved learning Boady’s backstory, watching how his friendship with Thomas develops, and the very clever plotting in this book. I have grown to really appreciate Eskens’ work and look forward to hearing more from him in the future.



Allen Eskens grew up in the wooded hills of Missouri and, after high school, migrated north to pursue his education. He acquired a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Minnesota, and a Juris Doctorate from Hamline University School of Law. He honed his creative writing skills in the M.F.A. program at Minnesota State University and took classes at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival and the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis.

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