by Ron Rash
(Ecco, $24.95)

North Carolina author Ron Rash has invented “a villainess like no other,” said Soyia Ellison in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Serena Pemberton is the sun-bronzed, gun-toting wife of a Boston-bred lumber magnate, and when she steps off a train in the opening scene of Rash’s new Depression-era Appalachian tale, she “casts a shadow” as long as any since Lady Macbeth’s. It “greatly pleases” this brisk, blond capitalist “that labor is cheap and easily replaceable,” said Janet Maslin in The New York Times. Her unbridled ambition soon strips the mountains bare, leaving a trail of broken bodies and awed onlookers. But a local woman whom she crosses early on emerges as a formidable foil, and their rivalry unfolds with “the piercing fatalism of an Appalachian ballad.” Rash knows his territory well. A former O. Henry Prize winner, he has “a fine ear” for the “idiomatic, laconic talk” of the assorted lumberjacks who provide running commentary on the whole drama. His impassioned fourth novel truly is a wonder, said David Frauenfelder in the Raleigh, N.C., News & Observer. It “rubs shoulders with the best of American literature.”