Jul 022014

cover for A Swollen Red Sun by Matthew McBridge. A white, broken down trailer sits in the foreground, the title above it encased in a swollen red sun.Booklist: The author of the outrageous Frank Sinatra in a Blender (2012) returns with an equally blood-spattered but slightly less offbeat thriller. If you see a burned-out house trailer on the cover of a crime novel, you can pretty well count on the book being country noir and the former occupants of the trailer having something to do with cooking or selling meth. Both assumptions hold true here, but that’s about all that’s predictable in McBride’s uncompromisingly gritty but surprisingly tender and quite funny tale of a good cop who impetuously grabs $52,000 of meth money hidden in a long-untended kitty-litter pan on the floor of meth cook Jerry Dean Skaggs’ trailer (yes, the one on the cover). Deputy Sheriff Dale Banks spends the rest of the novel trying to get out from under the hailstorm of trouble the money causes him. With the body count rising, both Banks and Dean, who owes the stolen money to a psycho preacher called Reverend Butch Pogue, who happens to be the James Beard of meth cooks, try to set things right, each in their very different, sometimes epically misguided ways. McBride’s novel combines the backwoods creepiness of Nic Pizzolatto’s HBO series True Detective, the understated country humor of Johnny Shaw’s Big Maria (2012), and the sensitivity to character and nuance of Daniel Woodrell’s Winter’s Bone (2006).