In Jim Antonini’s new novel, Bullets for Silverware, a young pharmacist unexpectedly stumbles into a den of crime in rural Appalachia and is suddenly caught in the center of a dangerous scheme involving drugs, disappearances, and perhaps even murder.
When we first meet our narrator, Michael, he’s a 22-year-old recent graduate of pharmacy school on his way to a new job at the Super-Rite pharmacy in Caldwell, West Virginia, a small town without a stoplight. He’s left behind a full life in Pittsburgh, including his disgruntled fiancée Meredith, whose well-to-do family had long been expecting Michael to attend medical school and can’t hide their disappointment with Michael’s surprising decision.
“Caldwell, West Virginia was nowhere. And I chose to go there. I could have moved anywhere I wanted,” Michael reflects. “But I needed out. I wanted to discover who I was and if I could make it on my own. I wanted a challenge.”
But what Michael finds in Caldwell is much more harrowing than a typical journey of self-discovery.
WHAT EXACTLY IS GOING ON IN CALDWELL?
Just as Michael is heading into town, two of Caldwell’s local drug peddlers, Johnny Fogg and Tolly Atwater, are meeting with Aaron, the former Super-Rite pharmacist who Michael was hired to replace. The mysterious Butterman arrives at the scene and a violent brawl ensues. When it’s all over, Tolly is dead and Aaron is missing.
That’s when Michael arrives at the Super-Rite, where he meets his new boss, Butterman. The town is abuzz with the news of both Tolly and Aaron’s disappearances, and it doesn’t take long for Michael to grow curious — and wonder if he might end up like his predecessor.
As Michael attempts to piece together the truth of Tolly and Aaron’s fates, he becomes increasingly determined to find out what exactly is going on in Caldwell and who is involved. Are the daily customers at the pharmacy simply harmless busybodies, or is something more sinister at play? Soon enough, everyone seems suspicious, from the friendly coworker at Super-Rite to the local Avon lady. The most enigmatic of all is the flirtatious Crystal, a daring young woman who takes an interest in Michael; but are her motives pure?
SECRETS HIDDEN IN A SMALL TOWN
The more that Michael becomes entangled with Butterman, Johnny, Crystal and the residents of Caldwell, the more his life seems at risk. His fiancée Meredith keeps begging him to return to Pittsburgh and enroll in med school, but Michael can’t pull himself away from the mysteries of Caldwell — until perhaps it is too late.
Jim Antonini, a resident of West Virginia himself, has crafted a dark, twisty thriller that feels fast-paced, hard-boiled, and edgy, where lies, corruption and horrific crimes lurk around every corner (including some scenes involving sensitive material such as violence and sexual assault). Fans of thrillers and crime fiction will find it an engrossing, gritty tale that ventures into the illicit underbelly of a tiny rural town with plenty of secrets to hide.