I received this book through my Darkfuse Book Club membership, which I have thoroughly enjoyed. I am also one of Mr. Thompson’s pre-readers.
First off, you have an experiment with a unique narrative voice that some have called “first person omniscient.” Whether that truly is the case or whether our narrator pieced it all together from what others told him or, mostly likely, he made up some of it up from what he knew, it works in this novel. Thompson clearly wanted to tell the novel entirely in Sammy Wood’s voice.
This is Thompson first published noir novel and he shows his roots right away even in choosing to name the tough detective Jim Thompson—one of the noir greats. The Faulkner brothers are not southern writers here—they are cocaine cowboys, and mean as hell. Thompson draws from a lot of sources and drops literary references along the way, but his style is his own and it concentrates on characters. You spend the book inside Sammy Wood’s head.
Story wise you have a young man murdered on the lawn of the former governor of Texas. That young man was the son of a prominent Senator. You later realize that if he was murdered on the lawn then something that happens later can’t be true. But then again Sammy said his dad might be lying, and we learn that he certainly has reason to lie. There are few certains in this book. Even when you finish.
Sammy is a drug dealer. His sister is a manipulator. His brother Andy is the only nice one in the bunch. But his dad, the former governor, is the real nasty one as we come to know. They are all drawn together by a shadowy killer from Eastern Europe called the Wolverine, whose story is as heartbreaking as that of the Wood family. The Wolverine wants something and will kill anyone who gets in the way. A very strong character driven (as with all of Thompson’s work) crime novel that doesn’t waste any time getting going or pull any punches along the way.