by Franklin Schneider and Jennifer Schneider
When Brooklyn private investigator Alice Riley reluctantly travels to Whitehurst, South Dakota, to investigate an assault charge against her ex-boss’s husband, she discovers more than just a tawdry small-town scandal. A surveyor for the local fracking operation, the accused was leading a dangerous double life—shacking up with a prostitute named Kim and overindulging in Whitehurst’s deadly new drug, a powerful stimulant called “devil dust.”
Out of her element in this badlands boomtown, Alice joins forces with the street-smart Kim, whose connections open doors some in town would rather keep closed. Working together, they descend into the heart of the local drug trade, unraveling a decades-old conspiracy that reaches to the top of Whitehurst’s social strata.
As Alice comes closer to cracking the case, however, people around her start disappearing. With the case and her life spinning out of control, Alice embarks on a single-minded, dust-fueled campaign to expose the truth—an effort that will take her to the darkest places imaginable.
Immensely readable, Black Hills delivers on many levels.
Jennifer and Franklin Schneider are the sister-brother team behind this excellent new thriller Black Hills.
The protagonist, Alex Riley, is a streetwise ex-journalist from New York who’s in a small South-Dakota town, a fracking boomtown, a modern-day gold-rush, where capitalism has brought greed, opportunism and exploitation. She’s a tough cookie but in an equally tough place, looking into an assault charge against her former boss’ husband. He’s been accused of beating up a girl, putting her in a coma, and the cops here don’t worry much about justice.
This is gritty stuff, not for the faint of heart. It’s modern noir and Alex fits the tradition of hardboiled investigators more than might first appear. She’s certainly got her own code, and plays by her own rules.
As this book is released, here in the UK we are facing our own prospects of fracking, and the controversial subject has its fors and againsts. For what it’s worth, I think this book joins my side of the debate, which is with the anti-fracking campaigners, but it’s not just fracking that makes this setting ugly, like so many towns the place has a drug problem, and crime pays. That’s not to say the book necessarily has an agenda, other than to deliver an entertaining, thought-provoking thriller.
The ‘friendship’ between Alex and Kim, a local prostitute, engages, especially as it’s played out in a town heavily populated with testosterone. The people know who to fear, who runs the show, but corruption and conspiracy soon reveal themselves.
Alex Riley may well return so be sure to check out her debut, you won’t regret it.
About Schneider and Schneider:
Franklin Schneider studied writing at the University of Iowa. He is the author of the acclaimed memoir Canned: How I Lost Ten Jobs in Ten Years and Learned to Love Unemployment.
Jennifer Schneider lives and works in New York City. She has an MFA from the University of Wyoming. She writes with her brother often; this is their first published project together.