GONE TOO LONG, by Lori Roy. Dutton, 352 pp., $27.
Families are complicated, a phrase and a fact that has imbued many a mystery plot. The vagaries of families provide a sturdy foundation for Edgar winner Lori Roy's fifth outstanding standalone. The quietly unnerving "Gone Too Long" persuasively looks at the legacy of violence and hate, and the responsibility to stop the festering bigotry and loathing.
Imogene Coulter has always tried to distance herself from Edison, her father who was a leader in the Ku Klux Klan in Simmonsville, Georgia. The feeling was mutual—Edison was openly disdainful of Imogene because she was not his biological child. The consequences of Edison's actions rise up when, on the day of his funeral, Imogene goes to clean out one of his outbuildings on a remote property, a Klan meeting spot where "the quiet, the whisper of all the evil ... can almost be heard." There, she finds Christopher, who's about 5 years old and has been living in the basement since he was an infant. Beth Liddell also has been held captive in the basement for seven years since she was kidnapped at age 10 when her Puerto Rican babysitter was murdered.
How Christopher and Beth came to be in the basement forms the crux of "Gone Too Long," but Roy also turns her novel into a look at the banality of evil. On the surface, scenes seem harmless, such as a breakfast of homemade biscuits and gravy for neighbors and a woman measuring the distance between a man's eyes. But everyday situations like this are quietly chilling in their ordinariness because the neighbors are Klansmen and the man is being fitted for a hood.
Roy, the only woman to have won the Edgar Award for both best first novel and best novel, has established a niche for lyrical prose in a noir story. Her standards continue in "Gone Too Long," a formidable history of hate.