When These Mountains Burn
reviewed by Sandra Hoover
Poverty, despair, and illegal drugs flow freely through the Appalachia Mountains of Western North Carolina. People are losing their livelihood, families, and lives. Neither the poor nor wealthy are immune to the devastation and havoc as loved ones succumb to the alluring high of their addictions.
Retired Fire Forester Raymond Mathis knows first-hand how destructive the drugs can be as he’s all but given up on saving his son Ricky from the disastrous effects. And yet, when a drug dealer calls Ray threatening Ricky’s life for payment of a debt, Ray finds himself answering his son’s plea for help one more time. He gathers the last of his meager savings and pays the drug dealer off — even knowing he can’t save Ricky from himself. But this time, a flame is ignited inside Ray. He’s known enough grief and pain to last a lifetime. The police are spinning their wheels — even after Ray informed them the illegal drugs were being routed through the sovereign nation of Cherokee. Pushed to the brink, Ray goes rogue seeking vengeance for himself, his son and all the families whose lives have been destroyed by ruthless drug runners. Ray believes for every action, there’s a consequence, and he won’t stop until vengeance is his… even if he has to burn the mountain down.
Police corruption, dysfunctional families, and drug empires seize the day in When These Mountains Burn. Utilizing multiple points of view, the author renders his story via Ray who’s fighting to save his addicted son Rick, a local addict called Denny who depends on petty theft to feed his habit and a dog-tired DEA agent who’s deep undercover without a lifeline. Through alternating chapters, readers get inside each character’s head experiencing the anguish driving each one while learning just how low they’ll go to feed their need… be it drugs, alcohol, redemption, forgiveness, or vengeance. The sense of despair and desperation portrayed is overwhelming and heartbreaking as they each fight to survive the only way they know how. Author David Joy brilliantly draws readers in to fight alongside these characters as they claw their way through dark tunnels, blind alleys, and forest fires. The setting is authentic and highly atmospheric, lending a malicious undertone that resonates throughout – driving the pace at suicide speed like a car with no brakes barreling down a dark, twisted mountain road at night. As a reader, all I could do was hold on and burn though the pages until reaching the end where Joy expertly brings them all together in one explosive scene that will leave you reeling. One thing’s crystal clear — a day of reckoning is coming to the mountains… who will be left standing?
Raw, gritty, and emotionally charged, When These Mountains Burn is high action suspense at its best — guaranteed to entertain fans of noir, suspense, and thrillers. Readers Beware: Joy’s writing is highly addictive! I’m hopelessly hooked and looking forward to reading more of his work.