The Forest of Smoke and Fog
Reviewed By: Susan Keefe
Susan Keefe reviews novels, poetry and non-fiction books for TheColumbiaReview.com
This well written and suspenseful thriller is set in Appalachian Tennessee, where hometowns like Watauga are dotted amongst vastly forested landscapes. In Watauga, Kelton Industries, a timber business, is an institution, the main employer for generations, and the life blood of the town’s economy.
Hunting is a way of life in the hills, and the president of Kelton Industries, Marvin, is an expert marksman who enjoys the sport. However, one day he takes a well-earned day off to hunt, and is found dead, shot in the stomach. The verdict accidental death. The question, how could this have occurred when he was so experienced?
Marvin’s death leaves the township shattered, and the company without a head. After the funeral, his sons Mark, and John, are surprised at the contents of their dad’s will. Mark has been left the lions share and control of the company. What’s more, John is devastated to discover that his brother is already having talks with the White-Hill Coal Company, they want to add Kelton Industries to their vast holdings, yet their past history leaves John concerned that their actions are not necessarily honest.
Despite previously loving the sports and action lifestyle, John finds himself devastated that his father’s company could be sold, and decides to buy out his brother, however this is not an easy thing to do. Even with the banks support, he still needs seriously large investors if he is to succeed. What’s more, the niggling voice in his head which is telling him his dad’s death was not an accident, will not be silenced. Therefore, against everyone’s judgement he asks for a second autopsy, and the findings leave him reeling. But, why don’t people believe them, and why won’t the sheriff reopen the case?
As the plot thickens and more discoveries are made, it is clear that something is afoot. John finds himself immersed in trouble and conspiracy, yet he refuses to give up his fights to find his father’s killer, and take control of the company. However, he is being thwarted at every opportunity, and seems to be making enemies at every turn. Grudges, scheming, vengeance, all reveal themselves, and what’s more, John soon discovers that ‘family’ just doesn’t matter, where money is involved.
In Summary: The author was born and raised in Appalachian, Virginia, and this shines through in the depth of his characters, and the details of this story. ‘The Forest of Smoke and Fog’ is a cleverly written southern gothic mystery thriller, steeped in secrecy, and guaranteed to keep you intrigued until the very last page. Highly recommended! — Susan Keefe for TheColumbiaReview.com.