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Haunted by the horrific accident that split her life apart, and struggling to survive its aftermath and start over, thirty-eight year old Chris Alford has quit her job as a professor at New York University and has joined the faculty of a small, obscure college in the heart of Appalachia. Before the fall semester even begins, Chris hears rumors of "strange happenings" at the school, and faculty members speak in hushed tones of "Allison," who some say "left unexpectedly" and others say "disappeared." A few whisper "murder." When Chris learns that she has replaced the mysterious Allison on the faculty, the undertones and attitudes of her colleagues leave her unsettled. They refuse to answer her questions, and they allude to "everything that went on with that crazy boy Tabor." Nothing from her earlier life in New York's inner city has prepared Chris for the looming, dark giant of a boy, Tabor, who appears on her class roster and at her office door. As weeks pass, Chris becomes entangled in a contest of wills with the secretive, intimidating Tabor. She is tough and consistent, yet caring, as she finds herself fearing this man/boy as well as defending him. Is he a menacing killer who has set his sights on her, or is he a physically and emotionally crippled victim of the poverty and prejudice that surround him? The tension builds and the questions remain unanswered, until one shocking final event uncovers the truth. Her relationships with college president James Cantrell, whose reputed wealth comes from the worst of coal mining's history; Richard Shelton, her colleague and friend; and the array of Appalachian mountain people who populate her life, highlight the many facets of Chris's character.

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