Hazard by Gardiner Harris

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When a block of coal the size of a stove shoots out of the wall, miner Amos Blevins barely has time to react before the entire area is flooded with water. He frantically tries to rescue his crewmates, but in an underground space that is pitch black and too cramped to even stand up, he can barely crawl to safety himself. Inspector Will Murphy is sent to investigate, ordered by his superiors to clear things up quickly so the mine can reopen. After all, if the mine closes, then miners lose their jobs, and so do mine inspectors.

It seems to be a straight forward accident, but Will senses something suspicious about this case—or maybe he's just lashing out at his older brother, who has usurped his place as heir to the largest mining company in Eastern Kentucky and owner of the flooded mine—but Will has decided he won't let this one go, whatever it might cost him.

Before he can get far, Will's witnesses start turning up dead. And Amos, who refuses to follow his boss's orders to lie to Will about conditions in the mine, finds the little he has threatened. Together, these two men will learn that in the mines, life, family, money, and power all come from one thing—coal.

Drawing on his four years of reporting on the coal mines of Kentucky, Harris has painted a vivid portrait of rural Appalachia, beautifully capturing the place and culture of the mining community while weaving a complex and taut story of murder and corruption.


About Gardiner Harris

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Gardiner Harris is the public health reporter for The New York Times. Before working at the Times, he worked at The Wall Street Journal and lived for four years in Hazard, Kentucky, as the Eastern Kentucky bureau chief for The Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal. His reporting in Kentucky led to broad changes in laws governing coal-mine safety and black-lung compensation, and it earned him national journalism awards, including a George Polk Award and the Worth Bingham Prize for investigative journalism. As a child, he and his brothers spent summers cutting and hanging tobacco on his family's farm in Todd County, Kentucky. This is his first novel.
Published March 11, 2010 by Minotaur Books. 368 pages
Genres: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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A fatal incident in a Kentucky coal mine triggers a layered and challenging probe.

May 20 2010 | Read Full Review of Hazard

The Washington Post

Blevins is pushing a machine that claws at a vein of coal when suddenly "a block of coal about the size of a stove shot out of the wall" and grazes Blevins before crushing Rob Crane, one of the few black miners in the area.

Apr 19 2010 | Read Full Review of Hazard


A stoical, mystically adept woodsman with a sedative-addled wife, Pentecostal leanings, and a discreet pot-growing sideline, Amos finds himself harried by both his drug partners (the flood destroyed a cache of pot) and the mining interests who know he can ruin their cover-up.

Apr 18 2010 | Read Full Review of Hazard

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