Barren River is set in the southern Kentucky cave country in 1962.
Arnie Travers and Morgan Hargett are lifelong friends who have
taken to exploring caverns in the region hoping to find one
interesting enough to develop and exploit through public display.
The story begins with the proceedings of a coroner's inquest into
the death of Morgan who has become trapped in a cave that he and
Arnie are exploring. He apparently has fallen into a pit inside the
cave and died of his injuries. Arnie has found his way out and
summoned help for Morgan, but too late. During the inquest Morgan's
wife accuses Arnie of murdering Morgan and reveals that she and
Arnie have had an affair and have planned to go away together.
Arnie's testimony convinces the jury that the affair had ended and
that he has held no grudge against Morgan. The coroner's jury is
sent out to deliberate the verdict and most of the members who have
known Morgan and Arnie for several years are ready to rule it an
accident. One member, a young man new to the town, demurs. He
thinks this is a rush to judgment and he wants further discussion
of the other two possible verdicts - murder or suicide. He is
finally beaten down by the others of the jury and a verdict of
accidental death is returned. But has justice been served? How have
we arrived at this moment? The book recounts the events leading up
to the time of the inquest to reveal the startling facts behind the
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