Billy Lafitte figured out at an early age that the best way to bend the law was to be the law. This book – the first in a trilogy – kicks off like it’s a plain and simple of story of brutally bad backwoods America, where every shed hosts a meth-lab and every corrupt lawman demands his dues. But then the narrative escalates into something much bigger. There’s a coherent, carefully crafted plot driving the action. There’s more than money motivating the stone-cold killers who’ve rolled into town and are making bloody examples out of the local lowlives.
At the centre of it all is Billy, already a two-time loser. On his last chance with a law enforcement badge. An adrenalin junkie with a penchant for making exactly the wrong call at the vital moment. And an intriguing character; not a cardboard cut-out, not a two-dimensional hillbilly bad-boy, but a convincing person motivated not just by greed and lust (although they sure play a part)
Yellow Medicine brings something of Louisiana’s laid-back lawlessness to the chilly, big-sky snows drifts of Minnesota, and the squeaky-clean college town of Ann Arbor. It’s less gruesomely explicit than some recent ‘country noir’. Although the pace is driven relentlessly by a succession of escalating violent encounters, it has more the feel of a mature thriller than a hack-n-slash horror crossover. At its core, Yellow Medicine peels apart some of the most important issues in contemporary politics and Billy himself provides a conduit to examine American motives and actions on the worldwide stage of religious conflict. Author Neil Smith flings his net wide, using what a first sight appears to be a ‘simple’ crime novel to say in public some of those troubling thoughts which usually only get discussed in private.
And he tells a ripping yarn, too.
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
Yellow Medicine is available at Amazon, frequently on offer as an ebook