A double murder investigation uncovers a secessionist plot in this debut novel.
“Redneck gumshoe” Craig Connor is a Tennessee sheriff nearing what appears to be forced retirement following “a humiliating indiscretion” that has already cost him his wife. But he looks to go out in a blaze of glory against Thomas Marshall, a despot in the making who leads a lunatic conspiracy to make the South great again. He plans to unleash global hell, out of whose ashes will rise the Confederate States of America, with Marshall as its messianic leader. His megalomaniacal ambition is well-matched by Connor’s bulldog tenacity and true Southern grit. Whereas Marshall sees himself as forging “a path to glory,” Connor dismisses him as “just an asshole who done killed three of my deputies and is fixin’ to kill a lot more folk.” The sheriff wants him “in a cell or in the ground before I turn in my badge.” Marshall is a down-home Bond-ian villain right up to the climactic confrontation when he becomes the clichéd Talking Killer, who recounts the entire plot to his nemesis. “Are you able to understand all of that, Civil Servant?” he arrogantly sneers. For his part, Connor has the reader’s empathy and rooting interest. He figures this case will be his swan song, and he becomes a mentor to his deputy, Billy Taggert, who has been on the job for just two weeks. “You’ll have to learn to talk better if you’re gonna be representin’ the county in an official capacity,” Connor chides him when he mispronounces a word. Price is skilled at parceling out information that will pique reader interest. When a colleague refers to Connor’s scandal, the sheriff replies, “What’s the version you heard?” The author also possesses a droll touch, as with this description of a gun battle that totals Connor’s police car: “Glass shattered, tires popped and sparks flew as the taxpayers of Bradford County received another line item upon their annual budget.” Finally, Price subverts reader expectations with an uncompromising, bleak development that one can’t help but grudgingly admire.
A preposterously entertaining thriller about a Southern conspiracy.