This is the first volume in Daneil Woodrell’s Bayou Trilogy and focuses on vivid characters and colorful atmosphere that includes smoky pool rooms and swamps.

Jewell Cobb is a small town Louisiana boy who has come to the city with dreams of making it big in crime, and he gets hired to kill a crooked politician.   Detective Rene Shade grew up on the streets he now works, is a former boxer-turned-police detective with a complicated family situation. Shade lives above the pool hall owned by his mother; one slightly disreputable brother owns a bar frequented by local outlaws; Shade’s younger brother works for the city attorney and has loftier ambitions, and the boys’ father, a pool hustler, is long gone and hasn’t been seen in years.  As Shade tries to run down Cobb and figure out what’s behind the gang violence things get messy.

When a local black politician is shot to death, Shade is called to investigate. It’s immediately clear to Shade that this is a case of deliberate homicide and that the killing may have been politically motivated. But the mayor is anxious to avoid any possible political scandal and insists that the detectives investigate the crime as a burglary gone bad.

Shade will follow orders up to a point, but inevitably he will pursue the case in the direction that the evidence takes him. Soon he’s heading deep in the Bayou’s sordid underbelly, and a number of other murders follow.

Woodrell’s real strength is in his writing, which is lyrical, in the settings he describes, and in the characters he creates. I really enjoyed this book.  Now on to the second in the Trilogy.

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