Saturday, July 14, 2012

Review: Dark Prairies

Dark Prairies
Dark Prairies by R.S. Guthrie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Dark Western Crime fiction Reading Level: Adult

Disclosure: The author was kind enough to send me a copy because I couldn’t afford it and wanted to read it. The least I can do in response is to provide an honest review.

Synopsis: In the taming of the West, the prairies, they bled. There was war between the white man and the Native American, the outlaw against the honorable, the harsh elements against anything that crawled or thirsted — yet as scurrilous and unforgiving as bloodletting always is, much still represented a kind of progress toward the future. Not always fair; not always judicious; not always kind.

But it is 2012, and though we call ourselves more civilized, little has changed. The greedy still steal the land, the rich still get richer, murder still happens. Dark Prairies is set in the prime of the twenty-first century Wyoming gas boom, when some landowners become rich and others get nothing but ruined roads; fortunes are made or lost on what some would call a toss of the legal dice.

When a terrible murder rocks a small town — when Sheriff James Pruett himself loses his beloved – the prairies, they WILL bleed again. How many will die this time, in honor and in vain?

My Thoughts: I just finished reading the first two books in the Clan MacAulay series by this author, and find them to be solid and readable. Guthrie has called this book his magnum opus and I was curious to see what he had written here.

The tone of this book is beautifully written – it really captures the feel of a ranching community, and the sort of taciturn, internal men who live in such a place, like Sheriff Pruett, come through so realistically. I grew up on a ranch, and in a small, agricultural community – although in Montana, not Wyoming – and it felt very familiar to me, reading this book.

One thing that Guthrie did with this book was to keep as many secrets as possible from the reader for as long as possible. Some of the secrets were things that the townsfolk would’ve known, but not really talked about (one extreme shocker was about Pruett himself and came up at 69 percent). Others were the sorts of things that folks probably wouldn’t know and also wouldn’t talk about. While there aren’t a lot of secrets in a small town, where everyone knows everyone else and gossip is known to fly like the wind, there will always things that simply aren’t talked about – maybe the insiders know about them, maybe they don’t, but they definitely will not talk about them with newcomers or outsiders. Since this little town is currently in the middle of an oil boom, there are a lot of outsiders from whom to keep secrets, and I think this is the sort of atmosphere that Guthrie was trying to create with this book. And, if I may say so, I felt he did it brilliantly. Again, based upon the small town in which I grew up – which is very similar to the one Guthrie creates in this book – the whole thing felt very authentic and familiar.

There are a lot of ways in which this book is very, very dark, yet there is hope blooming deep down inside by the end. It’s kind of like spring up in Montana where I grew up – there is still snow all around, but if you know where to look, back in the hills where the sun warms the ground a bit more than other places, you can find the crocuses pushing up through the snow.

I liked it. I really did. There were times during the course of the book where I didn’t, but that was a knee-jerk, emotional response to some difficult subject matter. I decided to sleep on this review before finishing it up and posting it, and during my nap I processed it a bit more, and I, at the end of it all, definitely liked it. If this sounds like the sort of book you would like, don’t hesitate to pick it up.

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  1. Katy, wanted to quick thank you here -- for some reason I can't figure your Twitter handle. I want to make sure you read the blog I half-devoted to you and your reviews of my books. I normally wouldn't pimp my blog, but you're in it, and I wanted to make sure you knew. :)

    1. Thanks Rob - I actually don't Twitter; you can catch me here, Google+, Goodreads - I think we're friends all of those :-). I'll go check it out now.


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