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Lonesome Animals

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  246 ratings  ·  49 reviews
In Lonesome Animals, Russell Strawl, a tormented former lawman, is called out of retirement to hunt a serial killer with a sense of the macabre who has been leaving elaborately carved bodies of Native Americans across three counties. As the pursuit ensues, Strawl’s own dark and violent history weaves itself into the hunt, shedding light on the remains of his broken family: ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published April 17th 2012 by Counterpoint (first published April 1st 2012)
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3.56  · 
Rating details
 ·  246 ratings  ·  49 reviews

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Aug 29, 2014 rated it did not like it
The blurb is compelling but, in the end, it does the book no favors. Whereas nothing in it is untruthful, exactly, it just assures the book of falling way short of the expectations it raises. There's nothing remarkable at all about this work. That the book would somehow have something important to say, I reject.
It mostly comes across as a desperate attempt at copying McCarthy but it doesn't even do that well (a lot of other reviewers clearly disagree, mind). It just screams of trying too hard: I
Jan 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book was amazing!

Yet again we have what seems like a "son of Cormac McCarthy" and yet rather than being a limiting comparison, I meant it as the highest possible compliment.

And where McCarthy can write exquisitely without even an engaging plot, this writer, Holbert has given us all we could hope for and more in terms of both story and language.

File under: Best Western
heh heh heh

Natalie Holbert
Apr 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Normally this kind of book is not part of a genre I would normally read but it had been highly recommended to me by my parents. This said, this was one of the best books I have read in a very long time. I couldn't stop reading. A wonderful book with not only a great story but great insights philosophically as well. I would and will suggest this book to anyone looking for a good read. Definitely a must-read!!!!!
Dec 31, 2012 rated it liked it
Holbert writes breathtaking prose. Some sentences are meant to be read and re-read for the sheer beauty of the words. However, the brutality of the story and the violence at its heart lessened my enjoyment of the prose.
Nov 29, 2012 rated it liked it
I'll be short and sweet: If Cormac McCarthy were a genre writer and didn't keep a 19th century thesaurus at his side, he might pen something similar to this.
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
This is a book that I accepted for review without fully understanding what it was about, and I'm glad I did; I think if I had read the blurb I might have passed. Set in Washington in the 1930s, the story follows Russell Strawl, a frontier lawman with a violent past, who is called out of retirement to investigate the savage murders of Native Americans in the area.

In the vein of No Country for Old Men, True Grit, and The Sisters Brothers, this is a violent, gritty, unapologetic and unromantic loo
Nov 22, 2013 rated it liked it
In some ways this reminded me of Cormac McCarthy's "No Country For Old Men." There's a rural sheriff, there are gruesome murders, there's a search for the perpetrator. But Holbert takes this way further than McCarthy, making "No Country For Old Men" seem like a walk in the park. For one thing, there is no big pile of drug money to provide a motive for the murders. For another, the sheriff seems as murderous as the murderer being sought -- so much so, that he's a suspect himself in these creepy k ...more
Shelley Fearn
Oct 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: manly-fiction
Russell Strawl, a retired lawman, has been single handedly chasing outlaws throughout the Okanogan valley since the 1880's. In 1930, someone is brutally murdering and then butchering Native Americans on the nearby reservation. Brought out of retirement, Strawl sets out on a single minded trek to search the killer out. It is a stark but beautifully written novel. It shows the journey of a man who, like to old West, is unable to survive the transition into the modern age.

I found Strawl a sympathet
May 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012-favorites
I like to read violent, gritty books--books that push me out of my comfort zone and leave me shaken. With that said, there were passages in Lonesome Animals that blew right past unsettling and flat-out frightened me. The prose, while I found it occasionally difficult to follow, is incredible. As other reviewers have mentioned, it reminded me a great deal of The Sisters Brothers and No Country for Old Men. People who liked the raw characters and strong sense of place in Donald Ray Pollack's work ...more
Cindy Swift
Aug 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
Loved the writing, especially the dialog. The plot is compelling - lawman comes out of retirement to hunt a serial killer in the Pacific NW in the 1930's - and the violence is brutal. The characters are hard to like, and still get into your head. Native American culture, Western ranchers, and more. Couldn't put it down.
Adam Lund
Jun 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
The only book I've read that's set in the remote areas of North Central Washington state, known as the Okanogan. This has an old west feel to it, but biblical allusions abound, as does perpetual violence. It reminded me of Blood Meridian. Well written and philosophical, this book has plenty of passages to ponder.
Oct 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is kind of a heavy book. Feels almost a little too real but it takes place in the 1930's so there is something about that time that is transient anyway. Everything was changing. If I summed it up I would call it, "Silence of the Lambs Western Style". Very good writing.
Mike Eckhardt
Dec 15, 2014 rated it liked it
This is a deeply dark, and I mean dark, western tale, there are no heroes just varying degrees damaged. I probably would have rated it higher but I couldn't really get into the cadence of the writing.
Jul 26, 2012 rated it did not like it
I could not get into this book, just couldn't finish it and had to take it back to the library. Sorry Bruce Holbert.
James Wharton
Jun 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Writing is incredile--vivid description, brutal at times but always intriguing. I couldn't put it down and read it in one day.
Damien Long
Sep 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Gunslinger meets dusty, depression era Central Washington (actually pretty similar landscape). Here's some mystery, a sprinkle of historical prejudice, a dash of gun - heck throw some more in there! - and some murders a la tableaux! Spoiler: if you can't handle the occasional Blood Eagle or trying to put back together someone who's been almost turned into a Marionette don't bother picking up the book. But on the other hand, if you appreciate descriptive story telling with thought provoking d ...more
Bobby Farmer
Mar 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book

Have hunted in Strawl canyon since I was in grade school - now will always reflect upon this story when I am in it..!Great characters in this whom each had their own different flaws and strengths - I can relate each to people from the area.. Enjoyed reading very much - in to Mr Holbert's next book..!
"Living is no sin."
"It's the worst sin," Jacob said. "It's the only thing that makes no sense. World is easy arithmetic if you subtract life."

He'd read light could travel 186,000 miles per second, but darkness was even faster, because it never left.

Recommended. Good reading.
Laura Furness
May 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
I kept reading hoping for redemption but it never arrives. A hateful man to the end but he might serve a higher duty. Hard to say. The writing is startling and poetic. I enjoyed it but also felt soiled by it.
John Woodington
May 09, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Every once in a while I get a yearning to read a graphically violent western novel that explores the indescribable nature of men who build their lives in the solitude of the vast American frontier. In general, this leads me to a Cormac McCarthy novel. Imagine my surprise when I came upon Lonesome Animals by Bruce Holbert, and felt my McCarthy-esque yearning somewhat quenched.

Lonesome Animals tells the story of Russell Strawl, an aging law(less) man who is called out of retirement to investigate
Feb 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
The author's prose is too descriptive and plodding. The novel features long stretches of boredom followed by short bursts of mayhem.
Nov 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
This book, as enjoyable as I found it, is not one you want to take up lightly as it delves into the darker recesses of man, is fairly brutal, and in some ways leaves the reader with less than they may have wanted, although the writing is excellent, the story a delight to follow, the characters terse and shadowy, and the insight into this region of the country seldom explored. Set during the Great Depression in eastern Washington State near the being-built Grand Coulee Dam, it follows the hunt in ...more
Sep 26, 2015 rated it liked it
When I acquired this book last winter, I did't expect it to be a highly literary reflection--in the bleak tradition of the naturalists--on why men choose to preserve or destroy themselves and others. I didn't expect it to be rich with reflection on the stories we use to make meaning of our lives, or full of Biblical allusions--used (and twisted) with wit--that ask readers to reflect on the moral ambiguities by which we seek to master our own lives.

But it's a Western serial killer novel that I pi
Aug 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook, keith, wtbbl
While the characters and the story are deeply disturbing on many levels, I could not shake how wonderful the writing was. For fans of tough characters living in the unforgiving landscape of Washington's Okanogan, this should be your next book. For the squeamish and easily offended, turn away. The book jacket states the author is a graduate of the Iowa Writer's Workshop, and there is no doubt this is true. Every sentence, every word is chosen with deliberate care. Taken in small doses, the poetry ...more
Jul 10, 2012 rated it liked it
If I could, I would give this book 3 1/2 stars. I really did enjoy this book. I was kept interested throughout...but in my older, more motherly years, I was a little shocked at the violence and graphic nature. But not sure if it would have been the same without it. Occasionally the language was a little much for me too (virgin ears/eyes). It was also a very poetic book. The writing was beautiful. Which was also a little hard for me to follow sometimes because I speak to children 8 and under all ...more
Jan 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: cowboy-noir, fiction
I can't get this book out of my head, but it's not for everybody. Cowboy conversations are a bit spare and difficult to follow but you definitely get into a cowboy noir frame of mind. If you like "Justified" on TV, you will love this book. P.S. Yeh.... it's been about 4 months since I finished it and it's still in my head so I'm adding a "favorite" to it. (but it's not for everyone). A FAVORITE
Shall I Download A Black Hole And Offer It To You
never thought i'd find an author to rival Cormac McCarthy's writing skills (not his style, no one will duplicate that, and Holbert's style is just as good AND totally his own)... this story is awesome... brutal, uncompromising, sad, ethereal, and brutal... yep, noted that twice... Holbert has a great strength in his language and a profound ability to craft a tale... can't wait to get to the library for his next book...
Oct 09, 2015 rated it liked it
a very gory western tale that I really liked initially but the gore got to me (literally); former sheriff finds locals maimed to death in various very creative ways only to discover…it’s too close to home—and then what to do? Well, the story unfolds. I also have a 2nd novel from this autghor and will be curious to see if he is as gory the 2nd go around—if so, I’m done. 2012 hardback via Madison County Public Library, Berea, 268 pgs.; 3 out of 5 stars; read 02 Oct, 2015/#29
Brian Shields
Dec 10, 2012 rated it it was ok
This book seems equally indebted to early Cormac McCarthy and Washington State field guides. The main character, Strawl, is not only a two-fisted, sure-shooting, laconic man-killer, but he's also apparently a botanist and a geologist. Violent and dark but never to any true purpose, and the book runs out of steam as the bodies pile up. Couple that with quasi aboriginal folk wisdom and some ersatz tough guy philosophy and the book starts to feel like a bit of a put-on.
Oct 02, 2012 rated it liked it
I hated this book. I wanted to stop reading it about page 30. I wish I had. This is a book about a violent, ruthless retired sheriff chasing a violent, ruthless killer. Wile the writer is not unskilled I found it simply depressing instead of interesting. Think Lonesome Dove characters with skewed and indeterminate moral compasses.

I gave it 3 stars because the author writes beautifully. Sadly, it's just a nasty story from beginning to end.

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Bruce Holbert grew up in the country described in Lonesome Animals, a combination of rocky scabland farms and desert brush at the foot of the Okanogan Mountains. What once was the Columbia River, harnessed now by a series of reservoirs and dams, dominates the topography. Holbert’s great-grandfather, Arthur Strahl, was an Indian scout and among the first settlers of the Grand Coulee. The man was a ...more