A New York Times Critics’ Top Ten Book of the Year * 2021 Edgar Award Winner Best Fact Crime * A Lit Hub Best Book of The Year
From a Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative reporter at the Charleston Gazette-Mail, a “powerful,” (The New York Times) urgent, and heartbreaking account of the corporate greed that pumped millions of pain pills into small Appalachian towns, decimating communities.
In a pharmacy in Kermit, West Virginia, 12 million opioid pain pills were distributed in just three years to a town with a population of 382 people. One woman, after losing her brother to overdose, was desperate for justice. Debbie Preece’s fight for accountability for her brother’s death took her well beyond the Sav-Rite Pharmacy in coal country, ultimately leading to three of the biggest drug wholesalers in the country. She was joined by a crusading lawyer and by local journalist, Eric Eyre, who uncovered a massive opioid pill-dumping scandal that shook the foundation of America’s largest drug companies—and won him a Pulitzer Prize.
Part Erin Brockovich, part Spotlight, Death in Mud Lick details the clandestine meetings with whistleblowers; a court fight to unseal filings that the drug distributors tried to keep hidden, a push to secure the DEA pill-shipment data, and the fallout after Eyre’s local paper, the Gazette-Mail, the smallest newspaper ever to win a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting, broke the story.
Eyre follows the opioid shipments into individual counties, pharmacies, and homes in West Virginia and explains how thousands of Appalachians got hooked on prescription drugs—resulting in the highest overdose rates in the country. But despite the tragedy, there is also hope as citizens banded together to create positive change—and won.
“A product of one reporter’s sustained outrage [and] a searing spotlight on the scope and human cost of corruption and negligence” (The Washington Post) Eric Eyre’s intimate portrayal of a national public health crisis illuminates the shocking pattern of corporate greed and its repercussions for the citizens of West Virginia—and the nation—to this day.
Eric Eyre has been a newspaper reporter in West Virginia since 1998. In 2017, his investigation into massive shipments of opioids to the state’s southern coalfields was awarded a Pulitzer Prize. He lives in Charleston, West Virginia, with his wife and son.
"Eric Eyre's nose for investigative journalism and conversational writing style are enhanced by narrator Michael David Axtell's energy, empathy, and appropriate tone of outrage. Why does a pharmacy in a town of 382 people in West Virginia need nine million pain pills over a two-year period? There is plenty of blame to go around for the opioid crisis, with pharmaceutical companies, over-prescribing doctors, pharmacists, politicians, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and even addicts in the mix. Writing for a small newspaper in West Virginia, Eyre uncovers another villain: the wholesale drug distributors who are transporting prescription drugs from pharmaceutical companies to pharmacies. Axtell fully inhabits Eyre's sense of injustice and maintains suspense as he and his newspaper spend years seeking records from these drug distribution companies."
– Winner of an AudioFile Earphones Award, AudioFile Magazine