Fever Devilin is a folklorist who fled the fevered halls of academia to return home to the Blue Mountain region of the Georgia Appalachians and a hopefully quiet life. While on a trip collecting folklore, Fever spots an apparition at a railroad crossing. Such apparitions are traditionally omens of evil, and when he returns home he finds his suspicions are accurate: his friend Lucinda's two nieces have been killed in a suspicious accident. As he consoles Lucinda, Fever promises to investigate the girls' deaths. His promise leads him through a maze of train-hopping drifters, old ghost stories, and the wild ravings of an itinerant preacher - as he attempts to uncover the truth behind the tales that are told and the visions that are seen.
Collecting stories from mountain folk suspicious of outsiders has taught Georgia folklorist Fever Devilin to be a patient investigator, a skill he once again puts to use in his winning third outing (after 2004's The Witch's Grave). Devilin has left a big-city university for his hometown of Blue Mountain, Ga., where he has reconnected with his sweetheart, Lucinda, and his boyhood friend, Skidmore "Skid" Needle, now the county sheriff. A new investigation hits home with a brutal sadness: Lucinda's two much-loved nieces are killed at a railroad crossing in what Lucinda fiercely insists could not be a simple accident. The final resolution doesn't stand up to the scrutiny of logic, but by then readers are so captivated by the characters in Blue Mountain they don't much care. DePoy writes with a poet's ear for the just-right word (making the occasional clunky sentence all the more startling) and manages, through the sheer charm of the smalltown characters, to avoid the obvious clich s of the city slicker returning home.