by Gardiner Harris
Minotaur, 2010. 357 pgs. Fiction
Hazard, Kentucky lives up to its name in this suspenseful story of a fatal mine inundation, triggered when Amos Blevins' coal excavating machine punches through the wall of the Blue Dog mine into a water-filled abandoned mine just next. Will Murphy works for the Mining Safety and Health Administration and is assigned to investigate the disaster, even though his family owns the mine and his brother runs the outfit. MHSA employees are no strangers to potential conflicts of interest and other corrupt practices, taking money under the table to conduct cursory inspections and rubber-stamp investigations. But this time Will decides to play it straight. Not only does a series of supposedly drug-related shootings of involved miners point towards a cover-up, but rumors suggest the existence of a more accurate map than the one that got the miners killed. The suspense is thick, the action relentless, but without sacrificing character development, setting, or the inclusion of a boatload of information about mining. Harris, a prize-winning investigative reporter, knows whereof he speaks about coal country and ably proves it in this fine thriller.