Friday, February 10, 2012
With the closing of the Harlan County, Kentucky, coal mines, marijuana has become the biggest cash crop in the state. A hundred pounds of it can gross $300,000, but that’s chump change compared to the quarter million a human body can get you—especially when it’s sold off piece by piece.
So when Dickie and Coover Crowe, dope-dealing brothers known for sampling their own supply, decide to branch out into the body business, it’s up to U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens to stop them. But Raylan isn’t your average marshal; he’s the laconic, Stetson-wearing, fast-drawing lawman who juggles dozens of cases at a time and always shoots to kill. But by the time Raylan finds out who’s making the cuts, he’s lying naked in a bathtub, with Layla, the cool transplant nurse, about to go for his kidneys.
The bad guys are mostly gals this time around: Layla, the nurse who collects kidneys and sells them for ten grand a piece; Carol Conlan, a hard-charging coal-mine executive not above ordering a cohort to shoot point-blank a man who’s standing in her way; and Jackie Nevada, a beautiful sometime college student who can outplay anyone at the poker table and who suddenly finds herself being tracked by a handsome U.S. marshal.
Dark and droll, Raylan is pure Elmore Leonard—a page-turner filled with the sparkling dialogue and sly suspense that are the hallmarks of this modern master. -- William Morrow
When RAYLAN by Elmore Leonard arrived on my doorstep, I knew exactly what to do with it... hand it over to my dad, Booking Pap Pap. It's not that the book didn't appeal to me, though. It's just that I thought he might better appreciate this suspense novel, and I knew he could get to it in a timely manner. So, here are his thoughts:
RAYLAN by Elmore Leonard features U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens as the principle character. Some may recognize him from the TV series “Justified”. Raylan is one cool character who is a mixture of an old west lawman and a modern day detective. In this story Raylan is transferred back to the coal mining region of his home state of Kentucky after a stint in Florida.
RAYLAN is a novel featuring three unique storylines with women serving as most of the principle targets for Raylan. First is Layla, an organ transplant nurse who joins forces with a former stable hand and the two sons of a local marijuana farmer, in a scheme to remove kidneys from unsuspecting targets and then sell them back to the target for transplant. Next is Carol Conlan, the smart, aggressive and sexy lawyer for a local mining company who gets involved in the suspicious death of a retired miner who has a disagreement with the mining company. The novel then sequels to Jackie Nevada, a college student turned professional poker player who has skipped out on a court appearance resulting from a gambling raid. Jackie is mistakenly identified as a member of a female bank robbing trio who are actually drug induced strippers forced to rob banks by an ex-con club owner.
Two interesting aspects of the novel are Raylan’s prior relationships with some of the characters and the transitions between storylines. For example, Layla’s first kidney victim is a suspect that Raylan has previously encountered and was now trying to serve a warrant on. Carol Conlan’s helper is Boyd Crowder, a character who was previously shot by Raylan and thought dead. The strip club owner, Delroy Lewis, was shot and arrested by Raylan several years earlier.
The transitions between stories are subtle but very smooth and are mainly accomplished by characters that cross storylines. Pervis Crowe is the marijuana farming father in the kidney transplant case and also the owner of Big Black Mountain, a Carol Conlan target because of its rich coal deposits. The stable hand in the kidney case worked for Harry Burgoyne, a wealthy horse breeder who also financed Jackie Nevada’s poker playing.
Character development is a real strength of the novel. The author’s use of coolness and calm in defining Raylan really gives the reader a great picture of this touch law enforcer. Elmore Leonard’s development of the local characters is strengthened by his use of the language one would associate with Kentucky’s economically depressed mining region. His description of the area and the plight of the local miners in their battle with the mine owners add a touch of realism to the novel. The author’s use of humor also strengthens the story and balances well with the shoot to kill mentality of Raylan.
Simplicity, brilliant dialog, great characters and clever storylines make RAYLAN a terrific suspense novel. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys the suspense genre.
Thanks to Booking Pap Pap for his review and thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.