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The Distant Dead  By  cover art

The Distant Dead

By: Heather Young
Narrated by: Eva Kaminsky,Charlie Thurston,Jim Meskimen,Cassandra Campbell
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Publisher's Summary

Nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Novel

Nominated for the ITW Thriller Award for Best Young Adult Novel

A BookPage Best Book of the Year

A People Magazine Best Book of Summer 

A Parade Best Book of Summer

A Crime Reads Most Anticipated Book of Summer

"Powerful...a breathtaking read, with flawed and authentic characters who hit so close to home that at times it is impossible not to root for them." (San Francisco Chronicle)

A body burns in the high desert hills. A boy walks into a fire station, pale with the shock of discovery. A middle-school teacher worries when her colleague is late for work. By day's end, when the body is identified as local math teacher Adam Merkel, a small Nevada town will be rocked to its core.     

Adam Merkel left a university professorship in Reno to teach middle school in Lovelock seven months before he died. A quiet, seemingly unremarkable man, he connected with just one of his students: Sal Prentiss, a lonely sixth grader who lives with his uncles on a desolate ranch in the hills. The two outcasts developed a tender, trusting friendship that brought each of them hope in the wake of tragedy. But it is Sal who finds Adam's body, charred almost beyond recognition, half a mile from his uncles' compound.   

Nora Wheaton, the middle school's social studies teacher, dreamed of a life far from Lovelock only to be dragged back on the eve of her college graduation to care for her disabled father, a man she loves but can't forgive. She sensed in the new math teacher a kindred spirit - another soul bound to Lovelock by guilt and duty. After Adam's death, she delves into his past for clues to who killed him and finds a dark history she understands all too well. But the truth about his murder may lie closer to home. For Sal Prentiss' grief seems heavily shaded with fear, and Nora suspects he knows more than he's telling about how his favorite teacher died. As she tries to earn the wary boy's trust, she finds he holds not only the key to Adam's murder, but an unexpected chance at the life she thought she'd lost.  

Weaving together the last months of Adam's life, Nora's search for answers, and a young boy's anguished moral reckoning, this unforgettable thriller brings a small American town to vivid life, filled with complex, flawed characters wrestling with the weight of the past, the promise of the future, and the bitter freedom that forgiveness can bring.

©2020 Heather Young (P)2020 HarperAudio

What listeners say about The Distant Dead

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

original

This is an odd tale, very modern, with a nice setting in the hinterlands most people don't know anything about even if they drive through en route to elsewhere. Some of the plot lines are too tenuous to hold even a small fish, but it was interesting to see them played . . . .

9 people found this helpful

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The Distant Dead

I hated this book. I thought the ending was beyond terrible. What a horrible way to end a book of fiction. No justice for anyone. Just pain, pain and more pain. I want my time back. I wish I had never read it.

5 people found this helpful

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  • SB
  • 07-07-21

Not what I was expecting

This is a bit of an odd story. It was not well developed and I don't understand all the Best Book of the Year citations listed in the summary. The mystery is not very compelling. The story is more of a social commentary about poverty and illegal drugs in depressed, rural areas. The narration is well done, though.

3 people found this helpful

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Fantastic

I selected this book because I live in Northern Nevada and was intrigued that it is set in Lovelock.
The author’s portrayal of the landscape and rural Nevada is spot on.
The characters and the plot are compelling.

2 people found this helpful

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Excellent

Well developed and written plot that encompasses history, relationships and society’s problems all set in a location unknown to me and I expect to many of us.

2 people found this helpful

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This is not a detective/mystery/thiller book

This book was one of the worst disappointments of later days so I was compelled to write a review.

If you read the blurb describing this book you get the idea that this would be an interesting detective whodunnit, a gripping mystery book. Turned out this is about various tragedies of different families, cancer, drug use, death of sons by parental negligence. Looks like the murder story was just another prop in the background to lure innocent bystanders like myself to spend hard earned euros on it.

So I was buying a sports car I was sold a van under false premises. Nevertheless, the performance of the readers was good, and if you get pleasure in dwelling in family tragedies this may be a book for you.

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Excellent small town crime novel

Excellent all around. A character-driven story reminiscent of William Kent Krueger or even some Stephen King.

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So good

I enjoyed almost everything about this beautifully written story; only the ending was a bit disappointing. Otherwise, it’s a wonderful book, with a very specific and defined sense of locale and such compelling, multi-faceted characters. All the narrators were good, especially Eve Kaminsky.

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Entertaining

I would describe this book as Dateline meets The History Channel and Khan Academy.

I was quite entertained mainly because I live in Nevada currently.
There are multiple narrators and it helped with uncovering the layers of the story up until the conclusion.

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Beautifully written

Heather is a master storyteller with deep and complicated characters. The complex world of addiction and an innocent boy’s entanglement in it is heart rending.