My rating: 5 of 5 stars
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?
In this, his third novel, R.S. Guthrie has delivered his magnum opus. Dark Prairies carves into the raw, twenty-first century West at both its worst and its finest hours and does so in the depths of an ocean of both loyalty and greed.
Disclosure - I was supplied an advanced copy by the author in exchange for an honest review.
My grandfather on my father's side had a deep and abiding love for the classic Western and indeed, my father grew up immersed in the graphic novel digests of the 50's and 60's - some of which I myself still own.
In terms of their individual quality, well some of them were debatable but I have always held an affection for them, their stories were always told with a sense of gusto.
Approaching Dark Prairies as I did last week, I knew that I was going to be in for a literary experience that sat on a whole other level entirely to those Western's of yesteryear. And, in the hands of a seasoned story teller - R.S. Guthrie - I was not disappointed.
R.S. Guthrie's 3rd novel is a master stroke of gritty story telling, fully realized characters and a sort of genre cross over where the stage is the American West and the act is a compelling tale of murder and mystery that is breath taking in it's execution.
So compelling was Dark Prairies, that I completed it in a couple of sittings over the course of a weekend, which - for me - is unprecedented. Guthrie immerses the reader into a thinking persons Western, a tragic murder that involves the protagonist intimately.
Guthrie's Sheriff Pruett is a quintessential every-man, a quiet and methodical investigator who has to take on perhaps the most heart wrenching investigation of his life - and we feel it, viscerally. The cast of characters around Pruett are equally vivid in their presence and their motivations and machinations are a delight to unfold as the story progresses.
The story flows slowly - not too slowly - but in such a way that it allows us to reflect on the situations Guthrie presents to us, before he ramps up the tension and action that thrills, horrifies and excites all at once.
The setting of rural Wyoming was another stand out that I will take away from my first reading and return to enthusiastically in subsequent readings. Guthrie has probably portrayed a place in the most tactile and visual fashion of any author I have read in recent memory. I could feel and smell Wyoming in all it's unadorned beauty and, as I described similarly, earlier it was a masterful example of penmanship.
Dark Prairies is important addition to the classic Western and Murder/Mystery genres and fans of both should consider this novel as a priority for their reading device.
R.S. Guthrie grew up in Iowa and Wyoming and now lives in Colorado. He has been writing fiction, essays, short stories, and lyrics since college.
"Black Beast: A Clan of MacAulay Novel" marked Guthrie's first major release and it heralded the first in a series of Detective Bobby Macaulay (Bobby Mac) books. The second in the series (Lost) hit the Kindle shelves December of 2011.
Guthrie's "Dark Prairies" represents a project that is close to his heart: it is set in a fictional town in the same county where he spent much of his childhood and still visits.
Guthrie lives in Colorado with his wife, Amy, two young Australian Shepherds, and a Chihuahua who thinks she is a 40-pound Aussie!
Readers can catch up with Guthrie's discussions related to writing at his Official Site.
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