January 13, 1997 12:00 PM

by Larry Brown

Brown used to be a firefighter in Mississippi; now he’s a gifted literary arsonist. The combustible material in this novel is family rot: Dad drank too much, Mom poisoned the kids with stories of his adultery. The story’s accelerant is their son Glen, just released from a prison term for running over a child while driving drunk. Brimming with rage, Glen has plenty of scores to settle, but his main target is Bobby Blanchard, the upright sheriff who arrested him.

Brown describes Glen’s five-day rampage of homicide, rape and robbery in the rural South with meticulous prose. The book succeeds as a thriller, but it’s also a compelling meditation on father-son relationships. Brown shows us that the powerful bond between men and their boys can thrive on love or, in its absence, turn dangerously to ashes. (Algonquin, $22.95)

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