The tale of a serial killer morphs into an incoherent jumble of places, events, and characters.
Postmodernist Jones begins cogently enough. Deputy Sheriff Jim Doe flirts with high-school student Terra Donner as they drive through rural Texas. Then Doe’s boss calls. The sheriff is tracking a Native American who was spotted shoplifting in a local store. Sensing that Doe wants to be with Donner, the sheriff tackles the matter alone. When he pulls the alleged culprit over, the sheriff discovers the decaying bodies of two children in the trunk of the man’s car—and the suspect draws a revolver and blows the sheriff away. FBI agents in Quantico think the deaths may be the work of a serial killer who finds his young victims in towns with biblical names. The sheriff’s widow entreats Doe to track the killer, who may also have abducted Doe’s sister Jane (yes, Jane Doe). Doe and the FBI agents eventually join up to pursue their quarry across the country as the narrative spins wildly out of control. Dialogue and events become elliptical and, as in Jones’s first novel (The Fast Red Road: A Plainsong, 2000), characters’ names keep changing, adding to the general confusion, since the work offers scarcely a gram of characterization. Doe may find his sister, who really may not be his sister. A dog in a parking lot becomes a coyote, then becomes a man wearing the skin of a coyote as he glides over the cars. Mr. Rogers (yes, that Mr. Rogers) passes through. Two men named Hari Kari and Jesse James exchange lines such as “Good old 301JN” and “GB4HK . . . ,” as Jones pours on the graphic violence, leaning on fragments for dramatic effect. Lots of fragments.
Followers of Pynchon, et al., may find the surrealism significant. Others will find matters trying and pointless.