Nordan (Wolf Whistle, 1993, etc.) boldly goes where his betters (Faulkner, Welty, O'Connor) have gone before. And he holds his own, mixing dark humor, Dixie eccentricity, and old-time redemption. As always, Nordon returns to his Macondo on the Mississippi Delta, Arrow Catcher, Miss., a small southern town where the undertaker recites Shakespeare, good old boys hum Rossini, and the tall tales grow like kudzu. In this off-center, sleepy place, ""loss is important, magic too."" Which means here that people die, but their souls live on. When two ne'er-do-well out-of-towners are shot dead at William Tell's general store, everyone assumes it's the work of Morgan, the Texas-trained sharpshooter who was raised by the local hoodoo woman. But Louis McNaughton, a fat kid with a comic-book-fueled imagination, saw the real shooter: the none-too-right-in-the-head Hydro Raney, a hypoencephalic boy-man who lives with his loving father at their isolated fishing camp. One night while tending William Tell's store in town, he manages to kill before being killed, but he can't sort out the difference, so further tragedy ensues. All the grief and gore catches the town at a moment when everyone seems to be seeking forgiveness and transformation. The cuckolding Mrs. McNaughton shames herself into sobriety and a resumption of her motherly instincts; the ""Prince of Darkness"" (aka the local undertaker) tries to reconnect with the world after the death of his overbearing mother; and Leonard Reel, a self-loathing homosexual given to public confessions of his sordid encounters, finally comes to terms with his sexuality. Sad Mr. Raney, widowed by Hydro's birth, finds comfort in his visions of an afterlife where mother and son reunite in Heaven's blues bar, with Robert Johnson playing on stage and Jesus serving Buds. Nordan nicely balances his raw subjects and over-the-top characters with an appealing sweetness and decency. State-of-the-art southern fiction.