Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Devil’s Right Hand

I first came across J.D. Rhoades when I was asked to review Good Day in Hell for the New Mystery Reader web site. Bounty hunter Jack Keller was a good character, Rhoades maintained a well-balanced pace, and everything fit together nicely. Why I didn’t add Rhoades to my list of writers to keep an eye on for new books was easy: I didn’t have that list then.

I do now. And he’s on it.

I picked up The Devil’s Right Hand for my Kindle because JD mentioned it on his blog (What Fresh Hell is This?), and I still had good feelings from last year’s Lawyers, Guns, and Money, which made my Best Reads list for 2011. The book reads as though Stephen Hunter wrote an episode of Justified, redneck noir balls to the wall, with a brief lull to gather momentum for the ending.

This is another Keller book, where the bounty hunter finds himself racing to catch his quarry before a son set on revenge can get to him for killing his father. Keller follows up on a lead too late to catch his man, but just in time to walk in on a shootout where the two story lines collide. After that it’s every man for himself.

There aren’t a lot of writers with a better sense of place than Rhoades. Everything about the book keeps you in rural North Carolina: the names, the towns, and speech, and the attitudes. He knows not to push too hard, but just hard enough, with ups and downs that keep the book from becoming just another high octane bloodbath. He gets you to understand his good guys and his bad guys and to see neither side is all one or the other.

The Devil’s Right Hand is great fun without being mindless entertainment. Highly recommended.