COEUR D'ALENE IDAHO is where people go to hide. Neo-Nazis. Corrupt politicians. Mining men with buried secrets.
In 1972 ninety-one men were killed in a mining "accident" sparked by a fire lit nearly a mile underground: the mystery was never solved. After the rest escaped only three miners survived underground.
More than twenty years later Matt Worthson is a sheriff's lieutenant and the disgraced son of mining hero and Sunshine Mine survivor Stanley Worthson. Matt expects to finish out his years on the force in quiet ignominy. But when the gruesomely dismembered body of a police chaplain is found at the swanky Coeur d'Alene Resort Matt is tapped to find the murderer.
As Matt investigates the murder of his friend he finds himself digging deep into the labyrinth of lies that seeps beneath the Coeur d'Alene region including the Sunshine Mine disaster and the truth behind his own broken family.
Ned Hayes is the author of the novels The Eagle Tree Sinful Folk and Coeur d'Alene Waters. His novels have been nominated for the Washington State Book Award and the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award. His novel The Eagle Tree was recommended by Temple Grandin and became a national bestseller. Feature film rights to this novel have been acquired by Mariposa Pictures. He was educated at Stanford University and the Rainier Writing Workshop. He holds MA and MFA degrees. His work has appeared in national magazines literary journals and anthologies. He lives with his family in Olympia Washington.
What is it about the Pacific Northwest that leads some into dark worlds of violence and despair? Had one-time north Idaho journalist Ned Hayes made this tantalizing question the centerpiece of his debut novel he might have only created a derivative retelling of an all-too-familiar serial killer plot. Instead he takes the plot for this well-written literary thriller from the historical facts of the still-unsolved Sunshine Mine disaster in 1972 and winds it tight around the troubled central figure of Matt Worthson a one time candidate for Sheriff in Coeur d'Alene.
Worthson suffering from a broken marriage and a suspect car accident is pulled into a tangled history of corrupt politics separatist plots and powerful interests who control the lucrative Idaho mining industry. The novel opens with the discovery of the mutilated body of a chaplain who works with the police department and seems to point towards a local serial killer who is again on the loose. But this tried and true plot soon moves in a more complicated direction as Worthson's own motivations and past crimes are brought under the microscope.
The story of the Sunshine Mine disaster itself is told in a flashback that is both compelling and heart-rending as Worthson struggles with his father's impending death and the secrets his father still refuses to reveal about the mine disaster - the truth of which has important implications for Worthson's investigation.
Coeur d'Alene Waters is a solidly written murder mystery with a haunting finish reminiscent of the best of Ridley Pearson or the early work of fellow Washington writer Jess Walter.
-- Book Note Joseph Shorin Featured Review