Nine-year-old Jess Hall is a curious lad who loves to spy on grownups. He is particularly protective of his mute, autistic older brother “Stump.” This book tells the dramatic repercussions that follow when “Stump” sees something he shouldn’t and is then subjected to a “healing” at the snake-handling church his mother belongs to, during which he is killed.
Three narrators move this page turner quickly along. The first is Jess, the second is the town midwife,
, who left the
church and took its children with her, and the sheriff, Clem, who has a painful
past of his own. Through their eyes we see the River Road Church of Christ in
Signs Following and its charismatic charlatan pastor Carson Chambliss, who
urges his congregation to prove their faith by taking up serpents and drinking
strychnine, and handling fire. They speak in tongues, lay on hands to heal, and
gyrate to pulsing music, and when something goes wrong they decline medical
This book was very hard to put down and I highly recommend it to anyone seeking something different in a mystery or a thriller.