"Down River" by John Hart won the Edgar Award in 2008 for best novel.
Adam Case returns too his hometown in Rowan County, North Carolina, five years after he was accused of murder and exonerated. One of the reasons for leaving is that his step-mother was the main prosecution witness against him and Case's father sided with his wife.
Adam's former girlfriend, Robin Alexander, is now a detective on the local police department. She tells Case that she still cares for him and should have stayed in touch with her.
Shortly after reaching town, Adam is beaten by Zeb Faith and two others. The message is clear, Adam is not welcome in town and many townsfolk want his father to sell his land. The family farm is located on land that developers want for a big project and if his father sold, then other people would become rich but there could be no development unless Case's farm was part of the deal.
This is much more than a mystery novel. I feel that Hart's may be influenced by fellow North Carolina Charles Frazier, author of "Cold Mountain." There are similar character descriptions in Case and Frazier's Inman. Both are men of integrity and have to prevail against great odds. In addition, Inman's love, Ada, and Case's sister, Miriam are victims of fate in their relations with men. It's how they deal with that difficulty that makes the books different.
Wonderful story and deserving of the Edgar!