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Thinning the Herd

by Jim Larranaga

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2013
Publisher: Manuscript

In Larranga’s (Dead Farmer’s Almanac, 2000) second novel, a mentally unstable bounty hunter gets caught in a world where death and high-stakes payoffs come prematurely for the terminally ill.

Quin Lighthorn was released from a mental institution in order to help the FBI with an undercover operation—or so he thought. As part of Lighthorn’s undercover job, he becomes an intern at Safe Haven, a firm that pays out a portion of a life insurance plan to a terminally ill person so long as that person makes the firm the insurance policy’s beneficiary. Within minutes of his first day on the job, Lighthorn witnesses a murder. From there, the plot begins to unravel: Lighthorn isn’t who he says he is; he isn’t working for the FBI; he’s delusional; his girlfriend may or may not be real; he falls in love with someone else—all that on top of the murder mystery. Sprinkled throughout the twisting storylines, Lighthorn gets sage advice from an adoptive Native American grandfather: “The raven is a good sign....He is the trickster who steals from the wolf. The wolf respects the raven and will not harm him.” The main characters are generally well-developed, but there’s so much going on within Lighthorn that it’s hard to keep up. Between his hallucinations, his flashbacks to the violent deaths of his parents and his doctor’s sharing a diagnosis of manic depression with almost everyone, readers may have a hard time knowing exactly what’s going on in what started out as a simple good-vs.-evil premise. The abrupt ending wraps up a few plotlines, but numerous loose ends could easily lead to a follow-up.

A wild, mind-bending read that can be a bit convoluted.