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White Crosses

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3.48  ·  Rating Details ·  558 Ratings  ·  77 Reviews
Larry Watson's previous fiction evoking contemporary Western small-town life has won him awards, a dedicated readership, and unqualified critical praise. Now he has written a novel that envelops the rich emotional terrain of his beloved Montana in a mystery that is both unexpected and unforgettable.
After a nighttime accident at the bottom of Sprull Hill in Bentrock, Sher
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Paperback, 371 pages
Published April 1st 1998 by Washington Square Press (first published 1997)
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The Whistling Season by Ivan DoigA River Runs Through It and Other Stories by Norman MacleanThis House of Sky by Ivan DoigDancing at the Rascal Fair by Ivan DoigMontana 1948 by Larry Watson
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Adam
Oct 25, 2010 Adam rated it it was ok
The first 45 chapters are actually pretty good for a book that i never heard of and picked up from the free shelf at the library. The author does a great job looking at what happens to the lives of people affected by a deadly car accident, and how the main character's life begins to unravel because of a single bad decision to try to change the true story of this accident. I would have given it 4+ stars except for the end. Completely silly. I closed the book and felt cheated by an ending that mad ...more
Monty
Apr 27, 2012 Monty rated it really liked it
I decided to read this book after finishing Montana 1948 because I enjoyed it so much. This one also takes place in NE Montana and does a wonderful job of describing the area, climate, culture, etc. Plus the author has a knack for going into detail about the main character's personality while leaving room for the reader to make inferences as well. This story is a great example of how one decision to lie can lead to multiple undesirable consequences. I still want to read more by this author.
Scott Smith
Jan 29, 2017 Scott Smith rated it liked it
An extremely well-written book. Watson's command of his prose is top-notch. The biggest appeal for me was the many smaller characters who populate the world of Bentrock, Montana in 1957. Through the lens of their quirky, sometimes lovable, sometimes maddening, eccentricities and nuances, we learn all the more about Sherriff Jack Nevelson and his flawed if well-meaning approach to solving a simple case that needed no solving. His attempts to hide a plain truth end the way most such endeavors do, ...more
Mary Ronan Drew
Feb 22, 2012 Mary Ronan Drew rated it really liked it
White Crosses by Larry Watson is a slow moving book about a good and well-meaning but misguided man, insecure, self-critical, and ultimately a failure. Jack Nevelsen is the sheriff of a remote county in Montana near the Canadian border, a man with a lot of responsibility but not a great deal to do. Serious crime is not a problem in his county and he and his deputy are easily able to handle the complaints about barking dogs, a drunken man wandering in the street, and the occasional invented probl ...more
Rachel
Aug 12, 2015 Rachel rated it did not like it
(Actual Rating = 1.75 stars)

White Crosses is the story of two deaths and the sheriff who decides to cover them up. Leo Bauer, principal at Bentrock High School, dies in a car accident on the night of graduation. With him is June, a high school graduate. Sheriff Jack Nevelsen puts two and two together, then decides that the knowledge will destroy the town. So, he concocts a tale to prevent the townspeople from figuring it out.

This book spends an awful lot of time in Jack Nevelsen's head. And it'
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Cindy R
Feb 08, 2016 Cindy R rated it really liked it
Cerebral, which works for me, but if you need action packed, go elsewhere. Good job at writing about small town life and how we can too easily surrender our true selves to the alter of worrying too much about what other people think, or of rocking the boat, etc. I enjoyed it but it made me sad for the hidden, unfulfilled lives of almost every character in the book.
Tammy Howard
Oct 28, 2013 Tammy Howard rated it it was ok
I like the story this book has to tell- but overall was disappointed. The main character spent entirely too much time thinking about things that really had nothing to do with anything. I had to force myself to keep reading. It got better towards the end but I was just ready for it to be over. It's a shame- because I think it could have been a really good book.
Kris
May 26, 2016 Kris rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one
Shelves: recently-read, own-it
As a native Montanan, I know all about the white crosses that are placed by the side of the road to mark traffic fatalities. So I was intrigued by a book that uses these crosses and the fatalities thereof as the main plot device. I wish I could say that the book was as good as the premise, but it was not. The ending was horrible, and did not fit with the rest of the book. It ruined the entire book for me.

The story takes place in a fictional eastern Montana town, and is set in 1957. Sheriff Jack
...more
Ellen
Jan 13, 2015 Ellen rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, mystery, montana
Set in Montana in the 1950's, this is the story of a well-meaning but misguided man who wished to save the reputation of a prominent citizen and preserve the innocence of his town. On the night of the Bentrock High School graduation, sheriff Jack Nevelson is called to the scene of a fatal accident where two people have been killed. The driver of the car was Leo Bauer, the principal of the Bentrock elementary school. His passenger was June Moss, a teenager who had just graduated that very evening ...more
Kendra
Nov 17, 2011 Kendra rated it it was ok
Its difficult to think of how to review this book. I finished it and wanted to know how it all wrapped up...and the book surprised me. So, you'd think my opinion would be good, but unfortunately, its not. I was continually frustrated...

Its a simple story, set in a small Montana town in 1957 and our main character is the sheriff. In the first chapter the principal of the high school dies in a car accident and his dead passenger is an 18 year old girl from the school; our assumption throughout the
...more
Peter
Jan 27, 2011 Peter rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Suki
Mar 02, 2015 Suki rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Carla
Feb 15, 2014 Carla rated it liked it
I've read three other works of Larry Watson, and find this last one, an earlier one, less enjoyable. There is still that instinctive Larry Watson "voice" in the book, but not as evolved as his later books. The book is written about a small Montana town. Mr. Watson, and his enviable ability to describe without doing so ad nauseam is what I love about his writing. The characters are full of flaws and make choices that are not always the best. This book however revolves around an accident, a lie, a ...more
Serena
Jul 21, 2012 Serena rated it liked it
Despite the time period, this book reads like a modern day western but with all of the neuroses of the present day and none of the excitement of the western. The sherriff/ protagonist has an unexplained fascination with ensuring gossop os not perpetuated, no matter how true it might be. He is also such a miserable fellow its hard to reconcile his poor choices. Perhaps I'm not giving enough credit to the customs of the time but I had a hard time understanding his motivations, even to the bitter/a ...more
Pat
Feb 08, 2010 Pat rated it liked it
Ultimately rather disappointing. It starts off quite well but then goes downhill. I enjoyed the evocation of 1950s Montana, and the idea of one man taking a step that is essentially him trying to stem the social changes that are on the point of taking place, and the repercussions that act has for him and everyone else. But I didn't find the main character very likable. And the ending is a bit of a cop-out.
Claudia Mundell
Nov 13, 2015 Claudia Mundell rated it liked it
I have liked Larry Watson's unusual work that is usually set in Montana, but I was prepared only somewhat for this story set in 1957. Sharp details and edgy story, but the internal monologue got to me at times. Yet I knew it was important and pushed on. The ending was a shocker, not something a reader forgets. If a reader likes something a bit different and with multifaceted writing, this is the book.
Sarah
Dec 28, 2015 Sarah rated it it was amazing
I actually read this book in high school, probably 15 years ago at least, and I've never forgotten it. A real page-turner, and really interesting insight into what we leave behind when we die - and a lot of that has to do with how we die.... the questions our loved ones ask themselves, the answers to which they may never know. I started thinking about this novel lately and have added more Larry Watson works to my to-read list.
Jess
Jul 09, 2009 Jess rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kirsten
Jul 20, 2014 Kirsten rated it liked it
Shelves: litlit
A neighbor gave me this book yesterday as I was trying to buy a plant stand from her for my porch. She didn't say it was good; she said it was 'interesting.' So we'll see. I saw some Danielle Steele on her shelf, but I also saw a lot of Bertold Brecht.

UPDATE: It was interesting. A lot of insight into a mind that I would otherwise probably never encounter. I'm interested enough to read his other work some day.
Joe Stack
Sep 25, 2014 Joe Stack rated it really liked it
When does -- how does a lie take on a life of its own? The local sheriff wants to protect the reputation of two people. This is a story of the consequences of this action. Outstanding on all accounts. As with other books by Larry Watson, well written, carefully chosen words, characters who are real and in very degrees of likability, and a premise that is possible. An exploration of what happens when a good person tries to do what he thinks is good to do.
Joyce Reynolds-Ward
Three stars only for the excellent and evocative writing. The ending was somewhat of a copout, in my opinion, and left me with a bad taste about the whole story. While I would normally enjoy the work of a writer like Watson, the dark turns of his writing with no redeeming qualities ends up leaving me feeling like I've just delved into a different form of grimdark. Not my thing, even though he's an excellent writer. Not sure I'll read any more.
Chi Dubinski
May 24, 2012 Chi Dubinski rated it really liked it
Sheriff Jack Nevelson dreads graduation day each year. The new high school graduates, who drink more than they should, end up with their brief lives marked by white crosses at the side of the highway. When he’s called out to an accident on Highway 284 he discovers the bodies of two people who should not be together—the elementary school principal and a teenage girl. The story is set in Montana in the 1950s.
Anne Van
Jun 10, 2011 Anne Van rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book. It's set in rural Montana in 1957 and is almost entirely the inner thoughts of a middle-aged sheriff during a several week period. The scene is set with a fatal two person car accident, and the sheriff makes a decision to insinuate a different perception of what happened. It's a bumpy ride for the sheriff, and along the way, the reader is allowed to evaluate the sheriff's perceptions and judgments.
Suzanne
Aug 04, 2015 Suzanne rated it really liked it
A small town Montana sheriff discovers an act of betrayal that could blow the reputation and moral fiber of this post WWII community apart. Should he cover it up, and what would be the cost to his own conscience and sense of honor if he does? A very interesting and well written story of ethical dilemnas and personal consequences.
Tonia
Jul 20, 2012 Tonia rated it it was ok
I have read a couple by Larry Watson and I didn't think this was one of his best. It moved so slowly and it took me forever to get through it (it wasn't THAT long of a novel). I will read him again because I liked the first two I read so much. He still has a very good handle on life in small towns.
Connie
Sep 29, 2012 Connie rated it really liked it
In the end, I really enjoyed this book. It took some time for me to adjust to the author's style. Larry Watson has the ability to go deep into the recesses of his character's mind - to the mundane, to the epiphanies - that you cannot help to care about Jack and where his thinking may take him next. Because it is Jack's own fabrication that creates this story.
Swanbender2001
Aug 23, 2009 Swanbender2001 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For the most part I didn't like Jack as a character and I found it hard to commit myself to him which wasn't the case with the sheriff in Watson's Montana 1948. However by the end of the story Jack's choices didn't seem to matter as I had gotten caught up in the movement and dynamics of the story and was carried away by Watson's craft.
Barbara
Feb 03, 2011 Barbara rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery, novel
Set in 1950's Montana, this story exposes the messy lives of a small town and the misguided attempts of the sheriff to disseminate a lie to protect the reputations of two accident victims. There are elements of a psychological thriller as we are inside the troubled mind of the County Sheriff, Jack Nevelson.
Blake
Mar 09, 2012 Blake rated it liked it
I got tired of reading this book. Although the descriptives and character development were good, I didn't really like the main character. I was especially disappointed by the end.
During the middle/ majority of the book nothing happens. It was an interesting concept though and somewhat novel.
Jean Hedren
Oct 25, 2014 Jean Hedren rated it liked it
I really liked Montana 1948 and was ready to enjoy this book. The characters and vivid description of small town Montana to be well developed. The ending really surprised and disturbed me. Just didn't expect that.
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Larry Watson was born in 1947 in Rugby, North Dakota. He grew up in Bismarck, North Dakota, and was educated in its public schools. Larry married his high school sweetheart, Susan Gibbons, in 1967. He received his BA and MA from the University of North Dakota, his Ph.D. from the creative writing program at the University of Utah, and an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Ripon College. Watson ...more
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