Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Hardwater

By Steve Sherwood
Texas Review Press, 214 pgs
1-881515-68-0
Submitted by TCU Press
Rating: 3.75

Hardwater has so much going on it can be difficult to keep track. In this case, that's not a bad thing. Peter Hoback is a newspaper editor in Hardwater, Wyoming, a small town that has seen better times, before the uranium mines closed. Pete fled Denver for Hardwater with his son Bart following the violent death of his wife at the hands of a psychopath. And wouldn't you know it: up pops another psychopath.

Hardwater begins as Pete gets an anonymous tip about a multiple murder. He arrives at the site, a vacation cabin in the mountains, and finds 3 bodies arranged in a triangle: scalped, throats cut, clutching a sage branch in one hand and barley in the other, their mouths wedged open with quartz crystals. The torsos have been slit open and sewn shut again. At autopsy the bodies are found to have yellow cake uranium packed into the cavities.

Meanwhile, back at the reservation, the Supreme Court has handed down a decision in favor of upholding water rights of the Shoshone tribe. There are threats and accusations flying as the Anglo ranchers form a posse. Yep, posse. It's not long before blood is shed, irrigation shut off, roads blocked and say howdy to the Wyoming National Guard.

Pete Hoback is friends with the tribal authorities and does his best to remain a neutral reporter while documenting both stories for his newspaper. Then he gets another tip and finds a poem written by the psycho that points to more bodies. Pete puts the clues together and finds three more victims, identical to the first three. Then the killer threatens Bart and the chase is on.

This book reminds me of James Lee Burke and as regular followers of Texas Book Lover know, that is some of the highest praise I can give. Just as JLB evokes southern Louisiana to perfection, Steve Sherwood has brought us Wyoming. I also want to commend Mr. Sherwood on the ending. The story is not tied up with ribbon and bow. The author allows the ending to be messy. I would love to read more from this writer. He has the potential to be great. Steve Sherwood is an instructor at Texas Christian University and director of the William L. Adams Center for Writing. He won the George Garrett Fiction Prize, awarded by the Texas Review Press in 2003.

For more on the author: http://www.wrt.tcu.edu/profiles.html

For more on the Texas Review Press: http://www.shsu.edu/~www_trp/

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