Summary and book reviews of Bad Country by CB McKenzie

Bad Country

A Novel

by CB McKenzie

Bad Country by CB McKenzie
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Nov 2014, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2016, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Linda Hitchcock

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About this Book

Book Summary

The newest winner of the Tony Hillerman Prize, a debut mystery set in the Southwest starring a former rodeo cowboy turned private investigator, told in a transfixingly original style.

Rodeo Grace Garnet lives with his old dog in a remote corner of Arizona known to locals as El Hoyo. He doesn't get many visitors in The Hole, but a body found near his home has drawn police attention to his front door. The victim is not one of the many undocumented immigrants who risk their lives to cross the border in Rodeo's harsh and deadly "backyard," but a member of a major Southwestern Indian tribe, whose death is part of a mysterious rompecabeza—a classic crime puzzler—that includes multiple murders, cold-blooded betrayals, and low-down scheming, with Rodeo caught in the middle.

Retired from the rodeo circuit and scraping by on piecework as a bounty hunter, warrant server, and divorce snoop, Rodeo doesn't have much choice but to say yes when offered an unusual case. An elderly Indian woman from his own Reservation has hired him to help discover who murdered her grandson, but she seems strangely uninterested in the results. Her attitude seems heartless, but as Rodeo pursues interrelated cases, he learns that the old woman's indifference is nothing compared to true hatred, and aligned against a variety of creative and cruel foes, the hard-pressed PI is about to discover just how far hate can go.

CB McKenzie's Bad Country is a noir novel that is as deep and twisty as a desert arroyo. With confident, accomplished prose, McKenzie captures the rough-and-tumble outer reaches of the Southwest in a transfixingly original style that transcends the traditional crime novel.

Excerpt
Bad Country

As instructed, the man stopped at a certain landmark in the desert, stripped and used the cheap folding knife to cut his dusty khakis and T-shirt into small pieces. He tossed his old clothes bit by bit into a hard wind, unpacked the plastic trash bag and re-dressed in new clothes. He squatted in the skeletal shade of a creosote bush, sliced his last apple and chewed and swallowed each piece slowly then sipped bleach-treated water from a recycled milk jug through the heat of the day. Near sundown he cut the jug into small pieces and threw them and the knife into a steep-sided arroyo, took his bearings and then tore his map into small bits and broadcast these as he walked north. When he neared the meeting place he hustled through slanting shadows and hid behind the large boulder so that he could espy in both directions the sparse traffic on Agua Seco Road. As he waited his eyes strayed toward a solitary cloud towed north by invisible forces. A call and response from a...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The prose is spare, and the phrasing careful, with a fine symmetry achieved between character, setting and well-crafted plot. Beyond these basic conversations, this thriller offers a wealth of discussion topics from children's beauty pageants to the history and treatment of Native Americans on and off reservations, immigration policies and reforms, border security, corrupt politicians, career choices, the socio-economic class system in America, inequities in the educational system and animal welfare.   (Reviewed by Linda Hitchcock).

Full Review (577 words).

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Media Reviews

Cleveland Plain Dealer

One of the strongest debuts to come along in years.

Publishers Weekly

Originality is the strong suit of McKenzie's Tony Hillerman Prize–winning debut. … McKenzie offers the reader an intriguing mystery and a new hero.

Library Journal

This edgy noir offers a master class on how to create a vivid sense of mood and place. Rodeo is a hard-nosed, hard-drinking man who searches for the truth as he understands it. Fans of the late, great Hillerman will cheer the arrival of a promising newcomer.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. An outstanding first novel written with clarity and authority and featuring a Southwest whose spare beauty covers unspeakable crimes and a detective who's tough, honorable and authentic to the core.

Author Blurb Michael McGarrity, author of Back Lands
CB McKenzie's Bad Country is a hard-boiled noir crime thriller set in Arizona Indian country. Tony Hillerman would have loved it. So did I.

Author Blurb Craig Johnson, author of the Walt Longmire Mysteries, the basis for A&E's hit drama Longmire
Bad Country by CB McKenzie is like that perfect arrowhead you stumble onto out on the trail, and then notice that it has bloodstains on it—a charged and unique southwest story that rings with an authenticity rarely seen in crime fiction.

Author Blurb Matthew Guinn, author of The Resurrectionist
Bad Country is a compelling debut, full of stark imagery and soaring prose. This novel's beautiful conclusion is going to stay with me for a long, long time.

Author Blurb Michael Farris Smith, author of Rivers and The Hands of Strangers
CB McKenzie's prose is much like his landscape, sparse and poignant, and the pages of Bad Country race by like a dust cloud across the plain. The pleasure of Bad Country comes in chasing that cloud to see where it's going to end up, and there's no way of knowing until you get there.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

The Sport of Rodeo

Bad Country's protagonist, Rodeo Grace Garnet, is a second-generation rodeo contestant who quit the circuit without setting records or achieving lasting fame. Cowboys like P.I. Garnet dream of competing and winning the big money stakes at the annual National Rodeo Finals but most endure a hard-scrabble, impoverished lifestyle and limited career options. The hierarchy within the sport is as intransigent as the social and economic status described in the novel.

Bullriding at rodeo American-style professional rodeos, organized in all fifty states, blend a well-marketed romanticized vision of the Wild West, dazzling showmanship, nimble dexterity and skilled riding. Promoters offer live, colorful yet family-friendly and generally affordable entertainment ...

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