Empty Mile - nominated for the Grand Prix de Litterature Policiere 2014
JOHNNY COMES HOME TO the northern California town of Oakridge, looking to heal the wounds of the past, looking to make up for what he let happen to his brother, Stan, at Tunney Lake twelve years ago.
In small town America, though, guilt is a virus that just keeps multiplying and Johnny finds himself in an ever-tightening vise of regret and danger.
Forced into prostitution and hiding a dreadful secret, Marla, the girlfriend he abandoned, is now emotionally scarred and fighting depression. For her, Johnny's return is a bittersweet event that may well have come too late.
Johnny's father, a distant and secretive man, is embroiled in a mysterious land deal. Before it comes to fruition, though, he disappears and Johnny is left to figure out what it is about the land that made his father want it so badly.
And Stan, brain-damaged but still functional, still optimistic, still possessed of a good heart and soul, is a living reminder to Johnny of how badly he acted all those years ago.
When the town's richest woman commits suicide, the lid of this parochial Pandora's box is torn away revealing a web of sexual deceit, greed and blackmail. Stan becomes a pawn in a game of revenge - while trying to protect him, Johnny learns more about guilt than he ever wanted to know.
"Beautifully written and deeply gripping, Empty Mile is a great read. I'm already looking forward to the next one from Matthew Stokoe."
-Michael Connelly, author of The Gods of Guilt
"The tension builds unbearably in this magnificent 'Sierras Noir' novel. Stokoe writes damaged people worthy of James M. Cain and Jim Thompson. His star-crossed lovers and broken families will steal your heart, even as Stokoe drives the knife home. I couldn't stop reading."
-Denise Hamilton, author of the Eve Diamond series
"Like the best noir, Empty Mile is rife with desire, desperation, and despair. Matthew Stokoe's people have dubious motives, ugly secrets, crushing guilt, and suffer dire consequences. But they're redeemed by the rarest gold in contemporary crime fiction--an author's genuine empathy."
-Eddie Muller, author of Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir
"From the outset of this heartbreakingly powerful contemporary noir, Stokoe (High Life) gets the reader deeply emotionally invested in his guilt-ridden narrator, Johnny Richardson. Eight years after leaving his hometown of Oakridge, Calif., in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, Johnny returns to face the consequences of a reckless youthful act [...] Stokoe stays true to a bleak vision of the world as he enmeshes his characters in the kinds of tragic setups reminiscent of a Thomas Hardy novel."
-Publishers Weekly, starred review
"To say Matthew Stokoe's Empty Mile is dark is an understatement of Herculean proportions. But there are glimpses of light, moments of grace, and characters that, despite their bad acts and shortcomings, are honestly human [...] A story of brotherhood, imperfection, and the huge toll that unresolved guilt and shame can... take on our lives, the book made each evening's return to its shadowy pages a gift."