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Two friends, one with nothing to lose and the other everything to lose, set the stage for “In The Country Dark,” the latest book by West Virginia writer Mike Mallow. This is a must-read if you like mystery, suspense and a thrilling page turner.

Set in three fictional counties of West Virginia, it’s a story of a murder-for-hire gone wrong. Cabel Walsh is a newspaper man, and after a falling out with the publisher of the local paper, he quits and takes a job at a newspaper two counties over. Spending less time in his home county, he finds himself disconnected from the people and events.

One night in a bar, he gets reacquainted with his childhood friend, Troy Mason. Troy and Cabel may have had the same childhood, but their adult lives have taken significantly different turns. Troy’s life has been one of addiction, drifting from job to job and a failed marriage. Agreeing to accompany Troy to a business meeting sets Cabel down a dark path that ends with death. But whose?

Troy’s need for revenge after losing his last job and Cabel’s need to come to terms with his childhood weave into a web of lies, double crosses and murder. They find themselves in the cross hairs of the local crime lord after Troy refuses to pay for the murder due to a technicality. They have to take matters into their own hands before time runs out.

Getting deeper into Troy’s world, Cabel finds he has to do things he never though himself capable of doing. But when he finds these things aren’t that hard to do or reconcile in his mind, will he be able to find his way back from the darkness?

Mike does a great job with setting, characters and plot. His descriptions of West Virginia, her land, people and events are spot on. The plot is full of twists and turns. You’ll think you have it all figured out and then here comes a twist you never saw coming. The characters are well defined — for some, you’ll find yourself thinking they remind you of someone you know or used to know. Mike himself is a newspaper man and he uses his experience and knowledge to write a believable story. He told me he worked on development for the book during his drive to work, two counties over.

I just realized this could be a series, so you go ahead and start reading “In The Country Dark,” and I’ll start convincing Mike he needs a sequel.

Amy Deal is a resident of Huntington, West Virginia, a network admin by day and a writer and reader at all other times. She blogs about her literary experiences at and can be reached by email at