Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Review : The Bayou Trilogy

The Bayou Trilogy by Daniel Woodrell. Mulholland Books, 2011. (Published April 28)

[Source: Mulholland Books]

The Bayou Trilogy gathers together Woodrell’s three novels featuring police detective Rene Shade, Under the Bright Lights (1986), Muscle for the Wing (1988), and The Ones You Do (1992). These titles represent three of Woodrell’s first four books and certainly make me willing to read more of his work.

Rene Shade works in the the parish of St. Bruno, a town with clearly defined lines between blacks and whites with internal lines between the law and the criminals that sometimes blur. St. Bruno is the sort of place where the police know quite well who the criminals are, but each side keeps to itself until someone dies. In Under the Bright Lights, the lines are crossed and the town threatens to boil over after the murder of a black city councilman. Shade has to work quickly to keep the peace.

Muscle for the Wing features a prison gang hitting the biggest crime bosses in town. Shade has to walk a fine line between following orders and following the law. Unfortunately for Shade, he doesn't have the same sense of compromise that the town bosses and even his own brothers have.

The Ones You Do finds Shade on suspension after the events of Muscle for the Wing and unlikely to ever be a police officer again. In the midst of his soul-searching, John X. Shade, the family patriarch, returns to St. Bruno after years of roaming. He’s on the run from another shady character (please excuse the pun) who thinks John X. stole his money. For once, John X. is completely innocent and is just trying to protect the wife who’s just left him and the daughter he’s left to care for. This was my least favorite of the three, but that's mainly due to my desire for happy endings...though happy endings are in the eye of the beholder.

The three novels taken together create an interesting vignette of one man and his town. In fact, it’s hard for me to imagine reading them individually and separated by time. They flow together perfectly to create a single work. I’d especially recommend The Bayou Trilogy to those of you who enjoy the setting of the South, which is exceptionally well done by Mr. Woodrell.

Related post:
Publisher spotlight : Mulholland Books
Review : Guilt by Association
Review : A Drop of the Hard Stuff

Amazon Associate link:
The Bayou Trilogy

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