Frederick Brooke's Reviews > Dark Prairies

Dark Prairies by R.S. Guthrie
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Sep 12, 12

Read from July 13 to 14, 2012

I couldn't wait to read the latest book by R.S. Guthrie, having devoured his previous books. One thing that is unique to Guthrie's fiction is that the story is partly the place itself, the geography and the topography of it -- the canyons, the wind, the mountains, the forests. Blood Land is no exception. The town of Wind River, where these events unfold, is every bit as important an element in the story as Sheriff Pruett himself. And not only because people's daily work and their lives are dominated by the lay of the land, and by the work they have to do to tame it. But also because this mystery revolves around a last will and testament, and the astronomical value of the rights of the black gold and the natural gas that lie untapped just beneath the surface, like the blood flowing in people's veins.

Pruett is drawn as likeable as an old divorced alcoholic chief law enforcement officer can be drawn. You come down on his side, right from the beginning. Mistakes made, his wife left. His daughter abandoned him. Alone, he presides over the town of Wind River for years and years, till the evil finds him. And the evil is both public and personal, and only Pruett can get to the bottom of it.

Blood Land has a courtroom battle at the center of it, but also a family feud involving ranchers and the all-powerful BLM (Bureau of Land Management). Think of blood feuds. It's a little like Grisham's A Time to Kill meeting Stephen King at his best: explosive, understated, elegiac.

A highlight of this book is the scintillating dialogue. Pruett describing the man who has been jailed for murder and has pleaded guilty as well: "And for all his ranting and surliness, Ty is a rough package but I'd say he's not too far past half bad." All the way through, people talk to each other in this rough-hewn poetic cadence, like William Faulkner.

Blood Land is a fast one-day read, but deserves to be consumed slowly and appreciated. It made me reflect about how we live on the land, and how people are, and the evil that people are capable of. With this book R.S. Guthrie has penned a starkly beautiful tale of greed, revenge and redemption.
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