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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A green parrot and a boatload of Brits
It's 1832, and Lord Albany Berrybender has chartered a steamboat to take him up the Missouri River on a hunting expedition. Albany is one of the richest aristocrats in England, and also a dissolute, selfish, old fool. Along for the ride are his wife Constance, six of their fourteen spoiled children, fifteen of nineteen servants, an aging parrot named Prince Talleyrand,...
Published on 23 Nov. 2002 by Mr. Joe

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars not his best
If like me you have read almost everything written by Larry McMurtry then you will quickly realised that this as with the others in the four-book Berrybender series is not in the same class as his superb Western trilogy :Lonesome Dove, Streets of Laredo and Dead Mans Walk or indeed anywhere nearly as good as his contemporary works:Terms Of Endearment, The Last Picture...
Published on 30 Dec. 2008 by Alexander Bryce


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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A green parrot and a boatload of Brits, 23 Nov. 2002
By 
Mr. Joe (Glendale, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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It's 1832, and Lord Albany Berrybender has chartered a steamboat to take him up the Missouri River on a hunting expedition. Albany is one of the richest aristocrats in England, and also a dissolute, selfish, old fool. Along for the ride are his wife Constance, six of their fourteen spoiled children, fifteen of nineteen servants, an aging parrot named Prince Talleyrand, the staghound Tintamarre, and a gaggle of American talent hired to ease their way, including Toussaint Charbonneau, the guide for the Lewis and Clark Expedition many years previous.
The first noticeable feature of SIN KILLER, the start of a four-book series, is the lengthy cast of players requiring a two-page character list. In addition to all those on the boat, there's a couple dozen ashore - Indians, trappers, and such - to provide local color. Chief among these is the SIN KILLER, a young trapper named Jim Snow, who has an exaggerated sense of God-fearing righteousness and an awkward way with women.
Since McMurtry's tales of the Old West are, for its characters, affairs perilous to life and limb, I immediately expected some of the English crowd to soon become victims of misadventure. (After all, such a large number is a heavy load to carry.) I wasn't disappointed.
It's apparent early on that the main protagonist of the book, and I suspect the series, is Tasmine, Lord Berrybender's independent and willful oldest daughter. Nothing scares her, not even her Old Man. And I expect the villain of the piece, the cruel, old Aleut-Russian squaw Draga, who passes herself off as a sorceress, won't scare Tasmine either if and when their paths cross. (Draga is a psycho in the grand tradition of other McMurtry psychos such as Blue Duck and Mox Mox. Remember them?)
Judging from this first installment, there are a couple of reasons I don't think the Berrybender saga will be the author's best work. First of all, crucial events happen relatively quickly without too much plot or character development. Perhaps, as McMurtry gets older, he's driven to get it written and published faster. (You never know when you're going to be ambushed and scalped by savages.) Secondly, a lot of the action and dialogue has a slapstick quality about it that seems forced. However, at 300 pages, SIN KILLER is a quick, engaging read.
I loved McMurtry's LONESOME DOVE trilogy. (The 1989 miniseries adaptation of that title starring Robert Duvall is my favorite western of all time.) While perhaps not presaging such excellence, this first volume of the Berrybender epic left me looking forward to the next. Oh, and I hope Prince Talleyrand continues to survive. Like Gus's pigs in LD, he's very cool.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars not his best, 30 Dec. 2008
By 
Alexander Bryce (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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If like me you have read almost everything written by Larry McMurtry then you will quickly realised that this as with the others in the four-book Berrybender series is not in the same class as his superb Western trilogy :Lonesome Dove, Streets of Laredo and Dead Mans Walk or indeed anywhere nearly as good as his contemporary works:Terms Of Endearment, The Last Picture Show,Horseman,Pass By etc.One dimentional characters exaggerated story lines bordering on farce which Larry does not do well. Having read all four I now choose to comment on this first volume as a warning of what is to come.The next three do not get any better.It is an enigma that one of the greatest writers of American fiction,history and travel can also produce Sin Killer.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Archetypes of the Old World and New Meet in the Frontier for Unexpected Frolics, 27 Jun. 2006
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 127,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
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For some years, Larry McMurtry has been fascinated by how he can take the Old West and transform it into something more understandable than the idealistic heroic images of those who played important roles in the Continental expansion from the Eastern seaboard. In the Berrybender Narrative, he's found a potent way to get his points across.

During the 19th century, the English aristocracy liked nothing better than to find new hunting grounds where they could slaughter thousands of animals and feel manlier. But it was an effete aristocracy that lived off its wealth and reputation rather than on its skill and knowledge. McMurty imagines such a family in the form of Lord Albany Berrybender who has merrily been producing legitimate and illegitimate offspring for decades with any women who will lie still for a bit. He has so many children that after awhile he stopped giving them Christian names and simply calls them by number. Berrybender hires a steamship to take his family and entourage (valet, coachman, gun bearer, laundress, tutors for the children, painters, etc.), up the Missouri to the Great Plains hunting grounds with enough claret to keep everyone bibulous for years.

What Lord Berrybender has in mind is a variation on the Maharaja's hunt in India. But the Old West is more dangerous than that. And the Berrybenders also prove to be dangerous to each other.

The story moves out of its hilarious satire long enough for Lord Berrybender's independent daughter to sneak off for a good night's sleep in a pirogue that gets left behind by the steamship. When she awakes, she decides she might as well bathe before trying to find the steamship again. As she does, she encounters a handsome young man also bathing. He turns out to be a wilderness trapper who had been raised by Native Americans, one James Snow, also known as the Sin Killer. Snow feels that he has a responsibility to get her safely back to the boat, and a tumultuous relationship begins between two opposites (he -- quiet, pious and focused . . . she -- voluble, on the prowl for romance and easily distracted). Before long, she's cooking up schemes to keep them together.

Soon, it becomes clear that such travel is serious business . . . and if any are to survive, it will be because of the Sin Killer's skill and bravery.

The book is great fun, but it's written in a style much like what a 19th century novelist might have used. As such, it's simple, exaggerated and languid . . . obviously imitating Huckleberry Finn in its style.

If you like strong women, Lady Tasmin Berrybender will be your favorite character in the series.

But there are lots of honest depictions of plains experiences and challenges that will add to your knowledge of the West. Despite his need to go too far over the top with the story, there's lot of factual substance here to chew on.

If you have the choice of reading a non-fiction account of the same era, pick the non-fiction account. This book tries too hard to be entertaining.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars probably not the best introduction to mcmurtry, 31 May 2010
By 
Mr. John Miller (cardiff, u.k.) - See all my reviews
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Having loved Lonesome Dove on TV and been impressed by the titles McMurtry has churned out over the years, it was only a matter of time before i read somthing by him. Despite his reputation, it is surprisingly rare to find any of his work at a British bookshop.
I went for the Sin Killer because it had a British family at the centre of it. Even the Welsh make an appearance. The book is very readable, I read it cover to cover in under a week, which is very quick for me. There is a pretty good appreciation of time and place. The writer gets one of the main characters, Lord Berrybender spot on. Although I suspect an affluent British Lord would have retired back to Northamptonshire after appendages started dropping off.
So far so good, for me though, the central love story is just too far fetched to hang the rest of the narrative on. We are asked to believe that a beautiful, rich young heiress decides to drop, literally everything, after a love at first site moment, with what appears, one up from a caveman. He barely speaks, is indifferent to her and gives her a good slap when he thinks she needs one.
This is a young lady who, at home would have certainly have met builders of Empire, who would have put our hero Jim in the shade in thought, word ,deed and wealth. Let us suppose that early 1830's England saw a disappointing class of Empire builders. Once on the trip she would have been introduced, at Baltimore, to men who were creating a fantastic new world, again people who would have put poor old Jim in the shadow.
The more Tasmin and Jim appear in the story, the more I reflected on the unlikley relationship. This is a pity, because, as mentioned, the premise of the overall story is a good one. McMurtry is a top class writer, despite, what was for me a major fault, he continued to engage me in the story.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 21 Mar. 2015
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great condition
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