"This was Frogtown, where the sideburns were longer, the fuses shorter, the skirts higher and expectations lower, and he loved it"
On the steamy and seedy shores of the Louisiana Bayou, Detective Rene Shade walks a fine line between law and loyalty in Saint Bruno where he was born and raised. This trilogy combines three loosely connected stories of crime and justice in the shadows of Frogtown and Pan Fry.
The first story, Under the Bright Lights, has Shade, and his partner How Blanchette, investigating the murder of a city councilman. The Mayor would be happiest if the whole business could be blamed on a trigger happy burglar, but it's not how Shade sees it going. The Councillor's death seems to be linked to a power play in the criminal underbelly that is in danger of triggering a war. Shade chases his suspects right into an armed confrontation in the middle of the Marais du Croche, a swamp beset by lethal cottonmouths and hungry crocodiles.
Muscle of the Wing partners a reluctant Detective Shade with a boyhood friend, Shuggie Zeck, whose business interests are being devalued by a mysterious gang of hold up men. In a town where payback and kickbacks grease the system for politicians and criminals alike, Shade can read between the lines of his Captains orders. This investigation isn't about justice so much as vengeance.
In The Ones You Do (Criminentlies), Detective Shade is brooding over his 90-day suspension when his father, the legendary John X Shade returns to the city with a daughter and annoyed ex associates in tow. This tale features the Shade family, itself a microcosm of the environment they live in. These eccentric characters underscore the themes of loyalty, redemption and belonging that flow through the trilogy.
Daniel Woodrell envelops the reader with his atmospheric depiction of the steaming, soiled bayou and it's unique characters. His style is vividly descriptive, and its a surprising pleasure to immerse yourself in the gritty underbelly of his world. The heat, the sweat, the fear become almost tangible with his eloquent turn of phrase. The language he uses has a cultural lilt, wit and earthiness that defines his characterisation. There is a sense of raw authenticity in Woodrell's examination of the realities of life in Saint Bruno and he captures the indistinct boundaries for those that dwell in the less respectable area's of society masterfully.
Far from being a one dimensional character representing the law, Detective Rene Shade is a skillfully drawn character of principle and personal conflict. Throughout the trilogy, Woodrell reveals the flaws and strengths that define Shade. He is a nuanced character who is engaging and likeable.
Shade is surrounded by family, friends and enemies, the ordinary and the eccentric. Eldest brother Tip, runs a drinking dive named The Catfish while youngest brother, Frankie is a lawyer. Their father, John X Shade is a pool hustling legend who is defined by his absence. Shade has grown up in the town he now polices and his childhood friends are as likely to be his enemies as his informants. Woodrell's characters are all boldly drawn with attention to detail and credibility.
Wonderfully written and an engrossing read, Woodrell has a gift for story and prose. The Bayou Trilogy is an atmospheric, brash and exciting adventure through the nadir of the criminal underbelly in the deep south, and I look forward to reading more by this author.
Shelleyrae @ Book'd Out