Monday, 26 August 2013

The Outcasts - a review

Recently I have been privileged to read and review several proof copies of books before they hit the shelves and as they are released. I spin a blurb for the booksellers and usually hand the books back. If I count the ones I read worth a mention, I will do so here, and since I am a Christian reading secular works, will absolutely tell you if there is anything unedifying. It also needs to be said that late changes may sometimes be made to these copies, and therefore some reviews may not be wholly accurate...

First up, The Outcasts by Kathleen Kent. You can read the back page blurb here and you should be able to find more on this one as it is released.

The Outcasts is an intriguing read with characters that genuinely surprise with their antics. You do not need to be a die-hard fan of westerns to become engrossed in this book with its unpredictable plot and sub-plots twisting ever so carefully (the unexpected ending gives a final hefty punch). The key characters bring to life the alarming facets of the wild west, and you can put nothing past them. There is nothing kitsch about this one.

This is the first of Kathleen Kent's books I have read and what a wild ride it was. From the outset I had no idea of what to expect, other than the usual bit of gun-slinging and horse rides through dusty terrain. Such is my experience with westerns thus far. The Outcasts gave so much more than that, and I can only describe the trip as exciting. The characters are fleshed out wonderfully and with a real sincerity more authors could take the time to employ.

Nate Cannon is a newly sworn-in Texas policeman, unsullied by the perils and trials of his new line of work. He strikes me as something of an idealist who quickly comes face to face with the harsh realities of the path he has chosen. As he goes in search of a very wanted serial killer he leaves his wife and child to pursue the hunt with new acquaintances Maynard and Dr. Tom. These two have a friendship that surpasses time, and Nate becomes privy to the friendship's intimate workings as the pages turn.

The biggest question of all is why Maynard and Dr. Tom need to track down William McGill, and who is working with him. Nate slowly gleans the information he needs whilst trying to figure out the two men.

Lucinda is on a quest to find both the man she loves and a fabled pirate treasure left buried long ago somewhere in the Middle Bayou. Her escape from Mrs. Landry's bordello has you holding your breath from the start. Though no escapee ever wants to be found out, her departure is made more perilous by an uncontrollable ailment Lucinda does her utmost to hide. Her tactics quickly gain respect and it obvious pretty early on that she is one shrewd woman.

The mystery is whether or not we should feel sorry for her, or if she deserves whatever she gets. I guarantee you'll be changing your mind back and forth as you work through the pages of this gritty and involving read. The heat cranks up when all their paths cross.

It has to be said that there are a few unnecessary pages here, as toward the end there are things described that do not need to be, and could have sufficed with a few choice words. For example, Lucinda realises she has fallen much farther than she ever thought possible and the things she has done and had done to her make her feel pretty awful. I feel it could have been left at this remark (which the author does make), rather than filling paragraphs and pages with descriptions of what these things were. I had the picture well enough and skipped these portions til the story truly kicked back in again.

Seriously, we get the picture and there is no need to paint it. These sections were easy to spot and for me, I find them a removal from the story rather than something that adds to its beauty or richness. The story is already so gritty that there is no need to out-do it with an over the top climax. It was brilliant enough.

As I said, westerns are not usually my choice (because of the clichés) but I did enjoy this one and will reflect on it for some time to come. There is a reality about it that refuses to be ignored, and the characters really do make the pages turn with their relentlessness, selflessness, and greed.

Read with a grain of salt or don't read at all. I'd keep it in my collection if not for those unnecessary parts, because one day my kids will pick up these books and tv already explains quite enough.

"The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time." Genesis 6v5

L'Eternel vit que les hommes commettaient beaucoup de mal sur la terre et que toutes les pensées de leur cœur se portaient constamment et uniquement vers le mal.


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