An endearing simpleton blunders into the War on Terror in this blistering satire, the second novel by the pseudonymous Australian author of The Dolphin People.
Meet Odell Deefus, a white guy with a black name, as he puts it. He’s a big fellow, slow on the uptake, but real proud of his greatest achievement, reading that Rawlings classic The Yearling 16 times. The 21-year-old is on his way to join the Army when his ancient Chevy expires near Callisto, Kan. He’s offered shelter at a desolate farmhouse by Dean Lowry, as mean as Odell is good-natured. A misunderstanding causes Odell to accidentally kill his host with a baseball bat. There’s another dead body in the house: Odell finds Dean’s Aunt Bree in the freezer. The hole Dean had dug for her in the yard will serve for him, though Odell will have to move the body six times to avoid detection. Through it all he is contrite but stoic. He reports the missing Dean and his aunt’s death to the cops, but his small fib about Dean’s association with Muslims leads to FBI and Homeland Security involvement and a nationwide hunt for the presumed terrorist, while Odell himself becomes a suspect. The busy plot also involves an evangelical preacher linked to a right-wing Presidential contender, and Dean’s sister Lorraine, a hard-as-nails prison guard who’s part of a drug-smuggling ring. The inexperienced sentimentalist Odell had had a massive crush on Condoleezza Rice; now he falls for Lorraine. The story rolls along as Krol nicely balances humor and menace. Odell, the “starry-eyed baby bird that just fell out of the nest,” has some close calls but lands on his feet. All that changes when he is sent to a tropical base (Guantánamo); the caper aspect disappears in this horribly believable hell, where the world’s most unlikely terrorist is put through the wringer.
Funny, suspenseful, scary and, most importantly, the best portrayal of an American Innocent since Forrest Gump.