Desperate Paths
by E. C. Diskin
Thomas & Mercer

"A familiar feeling rose inside her, the flash of heat, her heart exploding, chest walls contracting. She couldn’t breathe. And then she heard the thud."

Novelist Jim Thompson was once heard to mutter, “There is only one plot in all of literature…things are not as they seem.” That profundity is front and center in this tale of lies, secrets, hoaxes, hidden guilt, and more. A small town holds big bombshells kept under cover for years. In one explosive week, they all begin to surface as truth is revealed, lives are lost, and futures are changed forever.

Eden is a contemporary hamlet in Illinois. It’s a community where virtually everyone knows their neighbors. A local kid makes good as a big-time actor and comes back with a screenplay he’s written about his experiences growing up there. Before you know it, someone’s shot him. As he hovers between life and death, a family drama plays out. The drama’s principal players include a patriarch perhaps battling dementia, his recovering alcoholic daughter relapsing for multiple reasons, her sister who’s put her own New York life on hold to try and help, a clergyman who knows more than he’s telling, and a sheriff committed to seeing justice done before he retires.

Diskin is a highly skilled storyteller whose plot bobs and weaves from one revelation to the next without ever losing speed. Just when you think you know it all, you run headlong into a new surprise. Her characters are well-defined without being caricatured. Each is achingly human with understandable shortcomings. Repetition occasionally creeps into her exposition but not enough to make interest wane. Her dialogue sounds real, credible, and never forced. This is a first-rate writer telling a story of love, loss, race, wrongs, regret, and redemption. It’s well worth a read.

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