Bent Road, Lori Roy's debut novel, looks back to mid-1960s rural Kansas and the unsettling fate visited on a family more than two decades after an unsolved murder.
The Story: In the 1940s, after being devastated by the death of his sister Eve--murdered, it was assumed but never proven, by her boyfriend, Ray--Arthur Scott left secretive, insular Kansas for Detroit. To add insult to injury, Ray married Arthur's surviving sister. Now married with three children of his own, Arthur returns to Kansas in 1967, eager to escape the chaos of the city. When the area is rocked by another murder, the explosive Ray and several other of the town's unsavory characters become suspects. But who knows where the bodies are really buried?
Dutton. 368 pp. $25.95. ISBN: 9780525951834.
NY Times Book Review
"Writing with a delicate touch but great strength of purpose, Roy creates stark studies of the prairie landscape and subtle portraits of the Scotts as they struggle to adjust not only to their rural surroundings but to their troublesome relatives and taciturn neighbors. ... At the end of this Gothic nightmare, the Scotts have been exposed to more violence and suffering than they ever were in big, bad Detroit." Marilyn Stasio
Kansas City Star
"In a kind of Old Testament math, the variables in this account are shame, sin, secrecy and vengeance. ... Psychological acuity, tight plot and in-depth character development keep the reader trying to resist the urge to read ahead." Jeffrey Ann Goudie
St. Petersburg Times
"Bent Road is rich in sensory details, from the feel of kneading dumpling dough to the color of a slaughtered cow's blood, that anchor the story in its place and time. Roy populates that world with a believable cast of characters, deftly marrying a story of domestic violence and familial love with a gothic mystery that is compelling at each turn of the page." Colette Bancroft
South FL Sun-Sentinel
"In her debut novel, Lori Roy masterfully mixes a noir approach with gothic undertones for an engrossing story about family secrets and tragedies. ... Bent Road gracefully moves toward an emotional finale that is as believable as it is heartfelt." Oline H. Cogdill
To classify Bent Road as genre fiction is to sell the novel short. Despite easily shouldering the weight of psychological suspense and noir, the book--classified as "Plains Gothic"?--also astutely explores a changing world through the haunting Kansas landscape (including the "bent road" of the title) and the characters' irrevocably altered lives. Roy's debut recalls the work of Michael Chabon and Tana French--good company, indeed, and a comparison that hints at her narrative range--and readers will certainly anticipate the Kansas native's next effort.