A fine book for a cold.
Let me ‘splain.
I am referring to the summer head cold, a totally inappropriate, out-of-season malaise that bears absolutely no resemblance to the not-really-sick-cold one might use in a feeble attempt to get out of reading a book with grandfather. Those not-really-sick colds can be charmed out of existence by a book with fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love and miracles.
This was not that kind of cold, but that was o.k., as this was not that kind of book. Instead an idyllic farmyard, it opens at a traveling fair where Donnie Varner is looking to connect with a gun buyer. He is is back from Afghanistan and trying to make a buck. Turns out the middleman is a particularly attractive woman. Meanwhile, Ranger is back in Jericho, retired from the Army and fresh from winning his campaign for county sheriff. How? I don’t know; perhaps there is a book between. Ranger is busy twisting the tail of
Boss Hogg Johnny Stagg and the County Board when a badly wounded child is dropped off on the doctor’s doorstep, surely a victim of child abuse. When Ranger goes to the isolated trailer, he finds the owners have scampered, leaving behind thirteen cribs and a number of pens of half-dead dogs. This sets off a bit of a woman-hunt as Ranger and Lillie attempt to track down the woman and the rumors of foster kids from Mexico.
The plot is brisk, serviceable enough for a Robutussin-addled brain. The narrative moves back and forth between Donnie and Ranger, Donnie still living life on the edge post deployment and Ranger supporting Boomer and making amends with his sister Caddy. There’s some back-country politics and quite honestly, if you replace ‘moonshiners’ with ‘gun-runners,’ what the series most reminds me of is Dukes of Hazzard. Just the good ol’ boys, never really meanin’ no harm. There is some rather interesting twists to the plot later on that elevated it above the mundane. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder why the woman left the abused kid, setting this all off in the first place.
In another mood, this might irritate, as it has a plethora of genre tropes, particularly those involving women and people of color. Like Robert Parker’s Hawk, Boom is the loyal African-American sidekick with amazing physical prowess and who sometimes operates outside the law. Of course in this one, Lillie also has his back, except for a girlish mistake or two involving babies. (Babies! Of course!) And a kind of double-cross involving a beautiful woman, even though she didn’t say ‘I do.’
It didn’t have Rodents of Unusual Size, pirates or swordfights, but it did have a generally likeable feeling. I also appreciated there were minimal demands on the reader, because I wasn’t up to thinking or tunes on the heartstrings. On the cold distraction scale (somewhat like the airplane scale), it is a solid 3/5. I’ll wait til this cold passes before I try for something really engaging, but right now, that’s inconceivable.