Finally, a book that weren’t published years ago! The Girl From Blind River just came out yesterday, but I got my grimy hands on a review copy.
Jamie has got problems. She is stuck in a dead-end town with nothing much going on beyond a fertilizer plant. Her uncle has raised her since her mother went to prison (she’s out now), but his “raising” has consisted in significant part of her helping out with his small-scale gambling operation. And things go very, very wrong when a minor football legend comes into town and Jamie decides to make the jump from online to casino poker.
That’s a decent quick intro, but there is a good-sized cast for a story of this sort. The Girl Jamie. Her mother the ex-con Phoebe. Her brother Toby. Her uncle Loyal. The crooked judge Keating. The football star TJ Bangor. The disgraced detective Garcia.
Jamie is the obvious protagonist, in the vein of Ree Dolly. After telling the story from her POV for the first quarter or so of the story, the shift to another POV is a bit abrupt, but the shifts in POV are well handled from there.
I enjoyed this book. It neatly fits in the country noir subgenre (or roughly fits, because nothing in country noir should ever been neat except the whiskey, and that ain’t whiskey neat, it’s just whiskey). So it was exactly the sort of thing I was looking for. It has a good voice (so, so important for a country noir).
But the prose is a little off. It isn’t badly written, but it also ain’t Ron Rash or Daniel Woodrell. The Girl From Blind River is set in what is maybe intended to be upstate New York, but it doesn’t have a strong sense of place. The fertilizer plant is a nice touch, but the main other marker is how much people won’t stop talking about how cold it is. I live in Michigan. People bitch more about the heat (or “heat,” as a former Houstonian). The cold in winter is just a brooding omnipresence, to be endured but barely noticed.
The real problem is that the story is a little on the limp side. The poker, Lloyd’s tin-pot criminal empire, and his relationship with the corrupt judge are nice touches. Using a closeted man’s sexuality as an excuse to kick at him, on the other hand, is at this point a tired and lame trope. The biggest sin, though, is a tepid climax. These things must never end pat, or casually.
The Girl From Blind River was released on July 10 and is available at Amazon and elsewhere.
3 of 5 Stars.
Siobhan Jones at Book of the Month – review.
Gabino Iglesias at Criminal Element – review.
Kirkus Review – review.
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