Norton Publishers
Published by
Norton (2014-07)
Current material
2nd Pass Pages
Original language
Crime & mystery fiction


by Bouman, Tom

A stark, stirring debut mystery set in the hills of rural Pennsylvania.

When an elderly recluse discovers a corpse on his land, Officer Henry Farrell is drawn into his first murder investigation, a case he has little hope of closing. In Wild Thyme Township, secrets and feuds go back generations. Meth labs and heroin dealers are sprouting like mushrooms in the woods, and the steady encroachment of gas drilling has brought new wealth and discord. When danger strikes close to home, Henry’s hunt for the killer will open old wounds, dredge up ancient crimes, and lead to a final, deadly reckoning.

As Daniel Woodrell did for the Ozarks and Dennis Lehane does for gritty South Boston, Tom Bouman immerses readers in rural northeastern Pennsylvania. Mystery readers will love fiddle-playing, deer-hunting Henry Farrell, a bashful local cop with a wry voice and hidden depths. The influence of writers like James Lee Burke and Tana French is clear, but more useful comparisons might be Wylie Cash or Scott Smith.

Tom Bouman earned an MFA in fiction from Columbia and worked for many years in publishing as an editor at FSG, Harcourt, and Hachette. He now lives with his wife and daughter in rural Pennsylvania.

Sold rights (1)

Language Territory Type Vendor Status
German World All

Mohrbooks Literary Agency
Sebastian Ritscher

right_status_sold View on Rightsdesk



Tom Bouman has hit pay dirt with Dry Bones in the Valley, his carefully paced and skillfully plotted novel centered around Henry Farrell, truly one of the most likable and dedicated law officers in the history of crime fiction. I loved every word of it.

Quote: Donald Ray Pollock

Edgar Award for Best First Novel 2015

Quote: Norton

Tom Bouman is a remarkable new voice in contemporary fiction. Dry Bones in the Valley is a tightly crafted piece of rural noir that seems pulled from the earth itself, a profound look at the dark corners of rural America. Readers of Daniel Woodrell and Donald Ray Pollock will find much to love.

Quote: Steve Weddle

Grit-lit meets wry suspense, along with a keen rendering of place and politics.

Review: New York Magazine

Some stories are so sad, you want them to have the comfort of a gentle storytelling voice. Tom Bouman extends this kindness in… his beautifully written first novel. Marilyn Stasio

Review: New York Times Book Review

Tom and his brother (a filmmaker) collaborated on a video for the book that gives a sense of Tom and the world he’s writing about.

Quote: client

It’s a mystery, yes, but it’s also a love story between a man and the land and people he knows like the back of his hand. Dry Bones in the Valley is a gorgeous, lived-in novel, and Bouman’s turns of phrase are chest-clutching in their beauty.

Quote: Hannah Pittard

Bouman’s debut shows rural noir at its finest: a poetically written mystery about a man struggling with his inner demons and an area of great natural beauty few had heard of before the natural gas boom.

Review: Kirkus Reviews (starred)

Officer Henry Farrell is a shy man, but in his own ways just as ornery and tough as the cast of rugged characters who inhabit his Pennsylvania woods, where the mysteries are as old as love and grief. A rural cop with a keen intelligence and a wounded heart, Henry’s the right man to unearth the secrets of Dry Bones in the Valley. Tom Bouman’s debut novel is one you won’t want to miss.

Quote: Ed Falco

So smooth it’s as if it was written on spring water. Shadowy, swift, impossible to put down. I was enraptured. Any justice and this writer will soon be a major star.

Quote: Joe R. Lansdale

An outstanding debut… Henry’s growth from a grief-stricken widower to a lawman with an inner resolve fuels the brisk plot, as does an evocative look at a changing landscape.

Review: Publishers Weekly (starred)

Raymond Chandler said that Hammett took murder away from the manor houses and gave it back to the people who actually commit it. Tom Bouman continues that tradition. I’ll play fiddle with Officer Henry Farrell of Wild Thyme Township, PA, any day. Bouman’s story is deceptively simple, layered with history, bearing within itself the promise of lightness, of redemption.

Quote: James Sallis

There's a super-conscientious new cop in town, or at least in the rough-and-tumble Pennsylvania backwoods where breakthrough author Tom Bouman sets this freshly told tale of bad guys with possibly some good in them and a mystery woven into past generations. Deeply rooted Officer Henry Farrell is a welcome arrival on the crime scene, and Dry Bones in the Valley is a standout debut with an authenticity of place and character rare in any form of literature.

Quote: Ivan Doig

UK rights: Faber and Faber

Quote: Client

This novel is so precise, so delicate, that I feared turning its pages too quickly may cause the beautiful language to float off the page. But don’t be fooled by its precision; this is a tough, edgy thriller that asks hard questions about the destruction of our environment, our local communities, and our families. No smoke is being blown here: readers of smart literary thrillers are going to love this novel. All that to say this: I wish like hell that my name were on the cover of Dry Bones in the Valley.

Quote: Wiley Cash

More like this