Beneath the surface of Black River, the taut debut by S.M. Hulse, flows the grey enigma of ultimate justice. The narrative forces the reader to ask: Does a recidivist criminal capable of torture, yet claiming to have found Jesus, deserve parole? Or would such redemption be an injustice to the man he brutalized decades earlier? By the time former prison guard Wes Carver confronts the inmate who tortured him—slowly, finger-by-finger (“Williams didn’t just snap. He twisted”) during a prison riot—we’re burning to learn the fate in store for both men.