Maybe perfectly timed to end the recent debate about what small town America is really like, Kelly J. Ford’s The Hunt is a snapshot of Presley, Arkansas—a fictional locale that feels more real than anything depicted on country radio. With a writing voice that successfully straddles the line between traditionally comfortable and radically avant-garde, Kelly J, Ford lures her readers into a subtly subversive story that feels more mainstream with each turned page.

The Hunt focuses on an annual Easter tradition in Presley, Arkansas. In the weeks leading up to the official holiday, virtually the entire town participates in a search for the Golden Egg, hidden somewhere around town by the local radio station. Along with claiming victory by solving the same clues that are broadcast to every listener, the winner receives a cash prize. The only problem is that for seventeen years, it appears that a serial killer has used the guise of the event as a means to conduct a very different type of hunt—a hunt for their next victim.

After seventeen years and just as many deaths, some townsfolk—especially those related to previous victims—try to get The Hunt shut down, even while new generations of seekers enter the fray each season. Nell Holcomb is the sister of Garrett Holcomb—the young man who is thought to be the first victim of the unknown killer. Circumstances led to her raising Garrett’s son, Elijah and every year her nephew has more and more questions about what happened to his father, why his mother abandoned him, and shows a growing desire to participate in The Hunt. All are things Nell can’t manage to confront for her own personal reasons.

Meanwhile, Nell’s friend, co-worker, and confidant—Ada—respects, and maybe even loves Nell, for her tenacity and her fearlessness in being an out lesbian raising a gay nephew in rural America, but the allure of The Hunt is too strong—and so when she needs a partner, Elijah is more than willing to step-up. A decision that puts everyone in the line of danger and starts the dominos for major revelations.

Kelly J. Ford populates Presley with a diverse cast of characters—all of whom will make their way into reader’s hearts. The Hunt is a portrait of small towns that proves how they can sometimes be microcosms of the bigger cities, facing the same problems and wanting the same things without losing their more quaint charm. Readers will long for the innocence of a town-wide Easter Egg Hunt—even as they understand how it can become cover for much darker deeds. With the Golden Egg as a not-so-subtle symbol of the American Dream, watching how citizens navigate their own personal hunt for betterment will no doubt spur readers to dream bigger and empathize with those who fall short—often because of outside forces, through no fault of their own.

The Hunt features chapters from the viewpoints of both Nell and Ada, with cleverly constructed asides that document the history of The Hunt victims, dispatches from the local news outlets, and personal accounts of events on the ground. Kelly J. Ford has written a book that holds readers in a vice grip, anxious to know how it will all end as quickly as possible. With just three books under her belt, Kelly J. Ford has proven herself to have a distinctive voice perfectly suited for her brand of Southern crime fiction. Readers looking for something unique should pick up a copy of The Hunt as soon as possible, they won’t regret it.

BUY LINKS: The Hunt by Kelly J. Ford

Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the author. No promotion was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.