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Bad Country: A Novel

Bad Country: A Novel

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Bad Country: A Novel

3/5 (6 valoraciones)
367 página
8 horas
Nov 4, 2014


Winner of the Tony Hillerman Prize, winner of the Spur Award for Best Western Contemporary Novel, a finalist for the Shamus Award for Best First P.I. Novel, and a finalist for the Edgar Award for Best First Novel, a debut mystery set in the Southwest starring a former rodeo cowboy turned private investigator, told in a transfixingly original style.

Rodeo Grace Garnet lives with his old dog in a remote corner of Arizona known to locals as El Hoyo. He doesn't get many visitors in The Hole, but a body found near his home has drawn police attention to his front door. The victim is not one of the many undocumented immigrants who risk their lives to cross the border in Rodeo's harsh and deadly "backyard," but a member of a major Southwestern Indian tribe, whose death is part of a mysterious rompecabeza-a classic crime puzzler-that includes multiple murders, cold-blooded betrayals, and low-down scheming, with Rodeo caught in the middle.

Retired from the rodeo circuit and scraping by on piecework as a bounty hunter, warrant server, and divorce snoop, Rodeo doesn't have much choice but to say yes when offered an unusual case. An elderly Indian woman from his own Reservation has hired him to help discover who murdered her grandson, but she seems strangely uninterested in the results. Her attitude seems heartless, but as Rodeo pursues interrelated cases, he learns that the old woman's indifference is nothing compared to true hatred, and aligned against a variety of creative and cruel foes, the hard-pressed PI is about to discover just how far hate can go.

CB McKenzie's Bad Country is a noir novel that is as deep and twisty as a desert arroyo. With confident, accomplished prose, McKenzie captures the rough-and-tumble outer reaches of the Southwest in a transfixingly original style that transcends the traditional crime novel.

Nov 4, 2014

Sobre el autor

A native Texan, CB MCKENZIE has through-hiked the Appalachian Trail and worked as a housepainter, haute couture model, farmhand, and professor in a wide variety of locales around the world, including New York and Vermont, Miami and Milan, Tokyo and Tucson. He earned both an M.F.A. and a Ph.D. from the University of Arizona. Though he currently lives in California, he still keeps his pickups in Tucson and Texas. Bad Country is his first novel.

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Bad Country - C. B. McKenzie


As instructed, the man stopped at a certain landmark in the desert, stripped and used the cheap folding knife to cut his dusty khakis and T-shirt into small pieces. He tossed his old clothes bit by bit into a hard wind, unpacked the plastic trash bag and re-dressed in new clothes. He squatted in the skeletal shade of a creosote bush, sliced his last apple and chewed and swallowed each piece slowly then sipped bleach-treated water from a recycled milk jug through the heat of the day. Near sundown he cut the jug into small pieces and threw them and the knife into a steep-sided arroyo, took his bearings and then tore his map into small bits and broadcast these as he walked north. When he neared the meeting place he hustled through slanting shadows and hid behind the large boulder so that he could espy in both directions the sparse traffic on Agua Seco Road. As he waited his eyes strayed toward a solitary cloud towed north by invisible forces. A call and response from a pair of falcons hunting late he took as a good omen.

During the night a vehicle stopped in the middle of the turn-out. Muffled by closed doors and raised windows, the music from the SUV sounded like something the waiting man might hear when he stood outside a cathedral. When the vehicle shut down it was as if a trapdoor had opened on the surface of the world and all extant sound fallen through it. When a door unlatched, the dome light in the cab of the SUV illuminated a passenger in the backseat as a dark face under a white hat. The figure that emerged on the driver’s side had on a billed cap, dark glasses and a plastic coat that glimmered in the moonlight.

This is your ride, hombre. The command was a hoarse whisper aimed directly at the hiding place. Levántate. Into la luz.

The waiting man stepped into the glare of the headlights.

Tienes algo? the driver asked.

Nada, the man said. He spread his arms wide with his hands open. He had nothing but the new clothes on his back and the old boots on his feet, had no identification, no keys, weapons, cell phone or any paper with writing or numbers on it. He had no photographs of family, no money, no tattoos or identifiable scars, wore no jewelry and had never been arrested on either side of the border. He did not even know the name of his employer.

Eres Indio? the driver asked.

Si, soy Indio, the man said.

The man lowered his arms and waited for words that made more sense to him.

Has estado esperando mucho? the driver asked.

Si. Todo mi vida.

The bill of the driver’s gimme cap tilted down and then up.

I have been waiting my whole life for this too, the driver said.

The back door of the SUV opened and the man moved out of the headlights and toward his ride.

Adonde va? he asked.

Trabajar, hombre, said the driver. We go to work now.

Rodeo and his dog drove over Elm Street, which was but a collection of ruts and potholes, streambed cuts and corduroy stretches that led from the paved Agua Seco Ranch Road into a small dead end of southern Arizona called El Hoyo, The Hole.

Where the man and his dog lived was supposed to have been a full-service, upscale trailer park with concrete pads radiating like the segmented spokes of a big wagon wheel from the hub of an Activities Center, and wound through these spokes like a gourd vine a nine-hole golf course. But the investment venture had been mistimed and misplaced and so remained as only a concentric grid of blade-graded dirt roads marked at random intersections by unlikely green-and-white street signs now aimed into all compassed directions and bent by gravity to all angles of repose, mostly a collection of unpaid property taxes and dirt off the grid.

The old dog on the shotgun seat whined when he scented blood. Rodeo slowed as he approached the gates of his place, two jumbled piles of cinder block on either side of the dirt road with a sign advertising VISTA MONTANA ESTATES—AN ACTIVE LIFE COMMUNITY skewered on a splintered pole like a reminder note to do something later.

Cállate, Rodeo said.

The dog was quiet at his man’s command.

*   *   *

The corpse was facedown in the dirt, his jeans-clad legs widespread, boot toes pointed back, arms outstretched like a small, misguided Superman buried in a dead-end earthly mission. The back of his red, white and blue shirt was blown into shreds. Hung up on a piece of rebar, a pristine white straw cowboy hat twirled slowly in a breeze.

Rodeo sat for a long moment with a boot vibrating on the clutch pad, then he shifted the truck into neutral and stomped on the emergency brake. When the dog started barking Rodeo reached below the bench seat, pulled the 9mm from its stash site, jacked a load into the Glock and stepped out of the truck.

A cottontail hopped around a pile of vent bricks and froze and twitched and stared at the man with the gun. Rodeo waved his pistol but the rabbit moved toward the dead man where it sat trembling in the pool of congealed blood. Rodeo reached back through the open window and pounded the truck’s horn and the rabbit hopped away, his white paws tracing red across the desert. Vultures drifted overhead. Crows defined the margins of the crime scene by picking at spattered flesh and bone.

Rodeo reentered his vehicle, re-holstered his hideaway, calmed his dog, made a U-turn and headed back to the nearest place where cell phone reception was dependable.

*   *   *

Where you at, Garnet?

The voice of the Los Jarros County sheriff sounded in the cell phone like creek gravel sifted in a tin mining pan. Rodeo sat in the shade of the gas pumps island of Twin Arrows Trading Post, which establishment along with the handful of trailer houses scattered around it, passed as a village in a small county in Southern Arizona mostly uninhabited. He stared out the cracked windscreen of his truck at a sky that was bluewhite as an old blister.

I’m at the Store, Ray. Where you at?

I’m up to my ass in a crime scene right now over at the Boulder Turn-Out, so spare me the details if that’s possible.

Dead man by my front gates, said Rodeo.

Well, that’s a short story, said the sheriff. You know him?

I don’t know him, Ray. He’s a little man, probably Indio but probably not local. What have you got at the Boulder Turn-Out?

Some sort of death by misadventure, the sheriff said. And the body’s been here a while, so it’s tough for Doc Boxer to figure some theory out that will fit the evidence at hand.

What is the evidence, Ray?

Another dead Indian is the long and short of it.

What’s the official theory about these dead Indians in Los Jarros County, Ray?

We are understaffed and official theory–short about Major Crimes in Los Jarros County Sheriff’s Department recently, said the sheriff.

Rodeo said nothing.

You got some idea, Garnet? Official or otherwise?

State should send somebody down from Major Crimes Department to deal with my trouble out at the Estates, said Rodeo.

I doubt it’s just your trouble, Garnet, said the lawman. And I’m still the sheriff of Los Jarros County, so I’ll decide what needs to be done when I see what this new trouble is.

What do you want me to do, Ray?

You just sit tight at the Store, said the sheriff.

*   *   *

Hypothetical … Rodeo said. He was on the pay phone outside Twin Arrows Trading Post talking to his lawyer, Jarred Willis, who was in his well-appointed office in downtown Tucson.

I got my own shit to do, Chief, so put me out of my misery already.

You know where my place in El Hoyo is at, said Rodeo. You hid a Jaguar XJ with Texas plates in my storage shed last year, a vehicle that was later found in East Tucson with a dead cholo and his pit bull in the trunk.

That car was never registered in my name so don’t get on one of your Indian warpaths or this will be a very short conversation, Tonto. The lawyer paused. So what’s got up in your Hole out there most recently?

A dead man nearby the front gates of my place, said Rodeo. And The Hole’s not someplace you get to be dead in usually unless it’s by starvation or dehydration.

And these were not the case?

Death by shotgun would be my guess.

You didn’t touch him?

No point, said Rodeo.

When was he killed, do you think?

When I was away on vacation this last week sometime.

How many times I got to tell you to call the cops first, Tonto? It just looks real bad when you call your lawyer first thing because modern law enforcement can track these cellular phone shit conversations like Pocahontas could track short white dick in deep dark woods.

This is a pay phone. Ray’s on the way.

Well, if you’re smart as all that, Chief, then you don’t need a lawyer, do you?

I’ve often wondered about that myself, said Rodeo.

Rodeo’s lawyer laughed really loud.

Well, play it straight as you usually do then, Chief. And remember Law Enforcement don’t do Citizens favors, so don’t admit nothing to Police and don’t let them anywhere without a warrant and don’t invoke your lawyer’s name until you are firmly behind bars.

Good to know my lawyer’s got my back like that.

Save the sarcasm for the rodeo clown you rode in on, cowboy, said Willis. And you got about thirty seconds left on your retainer to tell me if you been in any shit lately.

I did that thing in New Mexico a couple of months ago and then found a lost kid and a lost husband and did a bit of divorce snooping in the last several weeks. Rodeo paused for a moment. Then right before I went on vacation I served papers on several minor characters for A-2-Z Bailbonds, but no criminals. So it’s been nothing major or personal for a while.

Then the dead man in your driveway’s probably nothing major or personal, Tonto. So just stay out of trouble on this and let Law Enforcement do their business.

Can I call you if Law Enforcement hauls me in?

You’re welcome to drop by my office in the Old Pueblo if you bring beers, said Willis. But you’re too low-rent for me these days, Chief. And since this phone call took care of what was left of your retainer fee I’ll just have to say hasta la vista to you as a client.

The lawyer hung up before the private investigator could.

*   *   *

Rodeo pulled back the Mexican screen door and peered into the gloom of Twin Arrows Trading Post. The place smelled of dry rot and swamp cooler mold and cheap goods extracted from mothball storage, soured milk, spilled beer, stale cigarette smoke and of the old man scent of trouser piss and necksweat.

The plank floor of the Territorial Era store was warped by permanent dry heat and grooved by a century of footfall. The pressed-tin ceiling sagged against the weight of faded piñatas and unraveling Pancho Villa hats hanging from it. A large metal carousel packed with Native American and Southwestern and Biker T-shirts dominated the center of the room. Neon-colored polyester blankets and other tourist-trade goods were piled against a side wall catty-cornered to a rickety table where vintage computers were available to rent-by-the-minute.

The moneymaker of the store, a big glass-fronted cooler that advertised COLD BEER, hummed phatically. A bumper sticker on the side of this industrial-sized refrigerator promised FREE BEER TOMORROW. The fourth side of the room was a long glass-topped counter behind which the storekeep sat on a rolling stool.

Sa’p a’i masma, Luis. This simple greeting was the only phrase in Tohono O’odham Rodeo had memorized for the owner of the trading post, Luis Azul Encarnacion.

Rodeo took his usual seat on his usual barstool at the glass-topped counter that served both as display for wares and elbow space for regulars. His dog insinuated himself around his master’s legs and took his place in the spot under the bar rubbed shiny by his occupation over the past six years. The storekeep reached his good hand back to lift a cowboy coffee pot from an electric burner ring, poured coffee into a speckled mug and slid it toward the only customer in the store.

Glad you made it back to El Hoyo, Brother Rodeo, Luis said. I always think you’ll go away one day and won’t come back no more and then I won’t have nobody intelligent left to talk to in this hole in the world.

Where’s your Locals at? asked Rodeo.

They found a dead man at the Boulder Turn-Out this morning, so I think the Locals they are laying low in their trailers today.

There’s a dead man out at my place too, Luis.

This is bad country down here, brother. Luis made this statement without affect. People die here all the time. Especially us Indians. Luis held up a fifth of Patrón Silver. You need something stronger, brother?

Just coffee, Luis. You got any fresh?

That’s fresh in front of you from just two days ago.

Luis poured a swig of tequila into his own mug. Rodeo drank his old coffee. The pair shared a silence for a few minutes. As if suspended on strings, bottle flies bounced in the uneven flow of the swamp cooler. The dog snored.

Were you expecting somebody out in The Hole, brother? Some of your Wets coming through?

He’s nobody I know, said Rodeo. And he’s dressed up in new Walmart gear with no pack or trash bag, no candy bars, no water bottle even. So I don’t think he’s an Undocumented that came through La Entrada from the Sonora side. He was brought to my place from the American side.

Why would he be? asked Luis.

I don’t know, Luis.

Sheriff coming by here?

Ray said he was coming this way after he attended to the dead man at the Boulder Turn-Out, said Rodeo. He rubbed at his eyes. Who found that dead man?

The Bread Man came by here this morning and bought an Olde English so I guess he was having an early Forty at the Turn-Out and when he went to take a piss there was this dead man in the ditch behind the Boulder pretty rotted up. And there was another murder while you was gone on your vacation to the Whites, Luis said. Last week some Hand from Slash/M Rancho found a guy up under the overpass with his head half blowed off.

You keeping track of these on the wall?

Luis had painted a mural on the interior adobe wall behind the counter and labeled the map AMexica—West Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, SoCal, Chihuahua, Sinaloa, Sonora. The map was now mostly covered by newspaper clippings dealing with crime or Indian Affairs or Border Issues.

Nobody’s interested in nothing I got to say, said Luis.

You talked to Police lately?

Apache Ray, he’s high most the time now on oxy from Old Mexico, Luis said. You should run for sheriff, Rodeo. You got some connections with Statewide Law Enforcement and a certain sort of good reputation when you killed Charlie Constance. Ray, he’s having heart troubles I heard so he might not last long in his current position anyhow. And Sheriff Sideways likes you so he might even support you if you run.

Ray dropped me from his radar when Sirena dumped me and he’s had heart troubles for thirty years, said Rodeo. You should run for sheriff on the Free Beer Tomorrow slogan, Luis.

That slogan does play good with the Locals, Luis said.

The store was quiet then save for the steady thump of the swamp cooler cylinder and the asthmatic mumbling of the overworked refrigerator cooling down sweaty tallboys of malt liquor and broken up six-packs of Ice beer and Drink Very Cold wine, quart cartons of whole milk, blocks of margarine and Oaxaca cheese, boiled eggs in plastic sandwich bags. Rodeo picked up his coffee cup and took a polite sip, stared out a dirty plate glass window at a dozen thin beeves across the road testing the dust for edible vegetation.

*   *   *

A late model Crown Victoria Special Edition arrived ten minutes later and Sheriff Apache Ray Molina labored out of his green-on-white cruiser and moved toward the store. Though in the face he still looked like the third lead in a classic Western, the senior lawman had ridden a lot of wild horses, eaten a lot of tough steaks and drunk a lot of hard liquor in his day and so was flat in the ass, fat in the belly and his Southwestern patrician nose was webbed with broken veins. He pushed back the Mexican screen door with some care, and nodded at the entire room as if he might have a large audience even though only Luis and Rodeo were in the place.

I sent Deputy Buenjose over to your place to have a look-out, Garnet, the sheriff said. But I doubt he’s even got out of his car.

Where’s the medical examiner?

Doc Boxer’s at the Turn-Out with some State Patrol and CSI from Special Investigations Unit who are down here to help us out while we’re shorthanded.

Follow me out to my place then, Ray, said Rodeo. And have a look at the new addition to your troubles.

The sheriff tipped his hat at an invisible crowd and walked back to the county cruiser.

*   *   *

Rodeo pulled out a hip wallet thick with calling cards and IDs and scrimps of paper and old receipts. There was not much fungible in the wallet, but Rodeo thumbed through the various pockets and crevices in the trifold and managed to find an assortment of hideaway money, which he laid out on the countertop. Luis flattened the bills with his good hand.

With the price of gas these days this cash money won’t half fill one tank of that old horse you’re riding, said the storekeep. Luis tapped the glass countertop under which were assorted valuables, many of them from Rodeo, including several of his smaller firearms and rodeo prize buckles, much of Rodeo’s mother’s old turquoise and his diamond wedding ring. Pawn Shop is always open, brother.

I need some work, Luis.

I got something for you over on Tuxson Res, your home turf, Luis said. An old woman she wants you to look out about her grandson’s killing. Familia name’s Rocha.

I don’t know her, Rodeo said. She know me?

She knows about you at least.

All the Indians I ever known on the Res are poor, said Rodeo.

You got anything better to do, brother?

Rodeo shook his head. The 800 numbers attached to his listings for Private Investigator in the Yellow Pages of Tucson, Casa Grande, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, Nogales, Los Cruces, Silver City and El Paso had not rung in weeks though his renewal payments for these advertisements were past due.

What’s the job, Luis?

This kid’s death, it’s probably just a drive-by and not much you can do about it anyway, Luis said. But it should be a day or two cash wages.

What killed him?

It’s a mystery, Luis said. Some cowboy found the Rocha kid up under some brush in the Santa Cruz riverbed near the Res. The kid might have been shot off the Starr Pass Road bridge or just fell off.

Rodeo shook his head.

For ten dollars I can get you a folder together on the whole thing if you’ll come by tomorrow? Give you something to do.

Rodeo sat for a moment staring at his hocked objects under the glass top of the counter.

I’ll have to owe you the ten for the contact, he said.

I’ll put it on your tab, little brother. Luis pulled a pencil stub from behind a cauliflower ear and scribbled on a notepad. You staying out at the Estates then? Even with a dead man in your yard?

They’ll move him eventually, said Rodeo.

The sheriff’s car horn honked and Rodeo whistled up the dog who stirred himself with great effort.

That old dog he’s driving you to financial ruin, Luis said. For ten dollars I could shoot him dead for you. Be painless for you both.

I’ll shoot my own dog and save the ten dollars when it comes to that, Rodeo said. He scooped up the dog in two arms and carried him out of the trading post. The sky was clear but for one small, silvery cloud suspended over El Hoyo like a weather balloon. Rodeo established the dog in his regular depression on the bench seat of the pickup. The dog went immediately back to sleep as he always did when he was tired or bored.

Rodeo moved to the double gas tanks of his pickup, uncapped one and plugged in the unleaded nozzle, set the pump on automatic. He added a quart of Dollar Store forty weight to the crankcase of the F-150 without even checking the dipstick. When he looked at the tally on the pump he did not fail to notice that Luis Azul Encarnacion had allowed him twice what he had paid for. He recapped the rear gas tank, hopped in the truck, rubbed his dog’s head for luck and aimed his pickup at the county road. It took fifteen minutes to get back to the murder site where vultures and crows feasted on and fought over the corpse dressed in a shirt of blue, white and mostly red.

*   *   *

Rodeo parked his truck well behind a black-on-black Los Jarros County SUV that was parked very near the corpse. Ray Molina parked in front of Rodeo and unfolded out of his county cruiser as if he were measuring the number of moves he made and could not go beyond a certain allowance for the day. Rodeo stayed in his vehicle. The dog stayed where he was in the shotgun seat, whining still about the scent of blood. Deputy Buenjose Contreras did not exit his black 4 × 4 but talked on his cell phone and smoked a cigarette. There was no crime scene tape in sight nor had the deputy made any attempt to fend off the carrion fowl.

The sheriff drew the big Colt revolver from his holster and fired in the air two times quickly and all of the crows and but one of the vultures flew away. The sheriff aimed and fired in the general direction of the remaining vulture and winged the feasting bird, which started flopping and screeching.

Oh for chrissake, the sheriff said. Even the birds out here in The Hole are stupid as shit.

Ray Molina killed the recalcitrant vulture with a headshot from ten yards. Rodeo exited his pickup and leaned a hip on a fender.

You can still shoot, Ray.

The lawman acknowledged this compliment with a nod then turned and pointed the revolver at his deputy in the black SUV. He rolled his wrist and the revolver around and then re-holstered his six-shooter as his underling rolled down his car window and stuck his pale brown face into the world.

Raise Doc Boxer, Buenjose, and call State to see if they got somebody extra to help out around here, said the sheriff. And just keep me informed about the incoming from your air-conditioned perch in the county taxpayers’ vehicle if that suits you all right?

That suits me just fine, Sheriff.

The deputy rolled up his window and picked up his radio receiver.

It suits my deputy just fine to stay in his vehicle during this situation, the sheriff said. After he damned near parked on top of a murder victim and ruined a crime scene to no end. The sheriff sniffed at the foul scent in the air. And that’s the deputy around here who covets my job and wants to be sheriff of Los Jarros County one day. Probably one day soon if he has his way. Sheriff Molina glanced over at Rodeo. What do you think about that, Garnet?

I think good help’s hard to find, Ray.

I think that’s what Jesus said at Gethsemane, the sheriff said. He surveyed the scene again and shook his head. I can see these asshole victims getting killed on the paved roads around here, he said. That would make some sense to me. But there’s not any good reason for a dressed-up man like this to be out here on a dirt road in The Hole, Garnet. You’re the only one ever crazy enough to live out here. The Apaches gave this place up without a fight, the Spanish gave it up without a fight, Mexicans don’t want it, Anglos wouldn’t have it when it was free land grant and even dumbass Snowbirds from Canadia won’t move down here with three hundred and sixty-six days of sunshine a year.

You know your Bible and local history, Ray.

The sheriff looked at the ground as if it were moving under him.

You all right, Ray?

I’m fine, said the sheriff. Old. Tired.

It happens to the best of them, Ray.

You never expect it to happen to you, the sheriff said. Ray Molina rubbed the back of his creased neck as he surveyed the scene again. Did you hear anything when this happened, Garnet? Any piercing screams in the night or random gunfire or like that?

I just got back from my yearly vacation in the Whites, Rodeo said.

What have you got yourself into this time, Garnet?

You know I don’t answer trick questions, Ray.

I know you don’t, said the sheriff. And that’s a sure sign of your intelligence.

The sheriff backed off from the cruiser, made a dramatic turn all around then stared for a while at the dead man.

Well, if he didn’t walk out here then it looks to me like your little man in the U S of A flag shirt was in some vehicle, and if he was in some vehicle with people who might want to kill him he probably wanted out of that vehicle. The sheriff assayed the surrounding area again. And he’d only have the one way to go because on the northside of this so-called Elm Street of yours there’s just a hell’s deep arroyo to fall to death in, so he heads south, trying to get off the road and get to some cover. But your little man wasn’t fast enough to get to cover and got just about exactly as far as he is before he was dropped with some pretty goddamned large buckshot. Ten gauge or twelve?

That seems about right, Rodeo said. Except he’s not my little man because I got nothing to do with him.

The sheriff lifted his nose to the stench and sniffed again. Well, whoever’s he is he’s ripe, idn’t he?

The dog smelled him from a quarter mile away, said Rodeo.

You got any ideas about this rompecabeza? Or does your dog?

Like you say, it’s a puzzler, Ray. But I will say that this man got here after I left for the Whites and before I got back from the Whites, so he’d be killed sometimes this past week.

The sheriff walked over to the corpse and crouched with obvious pain to examine what was left of the dead man. He raised his voice as he spoke over his shoulder.

So, who is this little fella, Garnet? asked the sheriff. You know most of the hands and half the stock in Los Jarros, don’t you?

That’s probably about the right percentages, Ray. But I don’t know this one.

Looks sorta like an Indian but he’s not an Apache or Pie Face from around here. He’s not one of your Pascua Yaqui, is

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6 valoraciones / 8 Reseñas
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  • (2/5)
    I disliked this book for all the reasons that others who disliked it have detailed. There is a big difference between trying to write like James Lee Burke or Cormac McCarthy, and being those two authors, to name but two.This book hit all of the requirements to be a critics darling.1. Author has a gritty blue collar background.2. Author got an MFA3. Author is overly descriptive regarding people, places, things that don't require that much detail. ( do I really need to know the name of every concert ticket the deceased has in his room.4. Use words to demonstrate how vast your vocabulary is thanks to your MFA.5. Add in one or more foreign languages ( Spanish, American Indian ) for no additional benefit to the reader.6. Be creative. In this case, don't use quotation marks ever, but still have lots of dialogue exchanges. Oh and don't have chapters.This book is beyond pretentious to the point of being laughable, the story never goes anywhere the dog is either bionic or the fittest dog on the planet, and the main character is neither interesting nor someone the reader can empathize with.Overall this book was for me a complete waste of time.
  • (1/5)
    This felt like it really wanted to be a Cormac McCarthy book but the prose just wasn't there and it just felt wrong. I couldn't finish it.
  • (5/5)
    Rare to find a contemporary writer who gets it so right!
  • (4/5)
    While I enjoy the puzzles contained in mysteries, those puzzles mean little to me if they do not involve memorable characters. (In other words, who cares about the whodunit if there aren't substantive "who"s to latch upon?) A well-described setting that feels fully inhabited is also a plus.

    Puzzle. Characters. Setting. Bad Country has them all.

    Indians are being killed in the desert of Arizona's border country. At the beginning of the story, one body is lying on the approach to the casita of Rodeo Grace Garnet, a former rodeo star (himself half-Indian) who now works, when he can get any, as a PI.

    Who is the man? Why was he killed? Something to do with immigration? Drugs? Is his death related to the others? Is there a serial killer on the loose?

    Rodeo is hired for a seemingly unrelated other case (the convention of mysteries is that there is always a "seemingly unrelated" case that we know, of course, will be tied in at the end), and in the course of his investigation meets a roster of rough-edged characters, each distinctive. It is indeed a "bad country"--not only because of its harsh terrain and climate, but because it breeds such hard people. Rodeo moves among them all with admirable cool. He knows how to handle an arsenal of weapons, but he leave food and water for border-crossers negotiating their way through the desert and he reads his Bible every night.

    The plot is intricate, the writing good.

    I understand this is C.B. McKenzie's first novel. I, for one, look forward to seeing more of Rodeo.
  • (1/5)
    I could not get into this book. For one thing there are no quotation marks around the dialog and no chapters. For those reasons I found it hard to read. I also did not care about the main character.
  • (5/5)
    Edgar Award finalist (for this book) CB McKenzie tells the tale of what appears to be a serial killing of Native Americans in Southern Arizona. A local detective Rodeo Grace Garnet is on the job hired by an elderly woman to figure out who killed her grandson (one of the serial victims) The book moves along at a steady pace as Rodeo interviews a series of people that eventually leads to several unexpected conclusions. This is a debut mystery for the author for which he received the Tony Hillerman Prize. This book is written in the vein of Mr. Hillerman's novels. Looks like this new author has a great future in the mystery genre.
  • (5/5)
    Bad Country gives readers a real feel for how life is lived in the forgotten places of the desert far away from cities. Rodeo lives so far out that the area is called El Hoyo-- The Hole. Out here, it's important that you have friends you can trust and rely on. At first it seems as though where his friends are concerned, Rodeo is all take and no give, but the further into the story you go, you understand why these few are Rodeo's friends.This book doesn't follow the rules-- just like Rodeo. There are no quotation marks, and a lot of this book is dialogue. There are no chapter headings. Instead there are breaks between scenes. Some Spanish is spoken, and it's not always translated. You know what? It doesn't matter one little bit. I had absolutely no problem knowing which character was speaking, and the breaks between scenes instead of formal chapter headings made perfect sense. As for the Spanish, what words I didn't immediately recognize were easily decipherable just by reading the next line or two.There's a popular rule in writing: Show. Don't tell. I've seen few writers follow that rule as closely as C.B. McKenzie. None of Rodeo's friends are going to tell you a thing about him. It's up to you to form your own opinion as Rodeo goes out into the desert around his property to leave water for the illegal immigrants traveling through this inhospitable land. It's up to you to see how he treats his old dog. It's up to you to watch him become more concerned about the death of a young boy than anyone in the boy's own family. As Rodeo investigates, he never takes the word of someone else about anything-- he goes to that person, speaks with him, observes his behavior, and forms his own opinion. This adherence to "Show. Don't tell." is like a breath of fresh air. It provides a depth of clarity and characterization that is difficult to describe but a joy to experience. All I know is that I was sucked into this story, and I didn't want it to end. I want more Rodeo Grace Garnet.
  • (4/5)
    "Bad Country" (BC) is a very good book. I particularly liked the Tucson, AZ region setting. An interesting but somewhat muddled plot, well drawn characters, good dialog. For the most part, the prose was well done, but I thought that a number of passages would have been better had the author chosen a simpler and more direct approach. So, yes, at times it seemed a bit over-written. I liked the protagonist, Rodeo Grace Garnet, an ex- rodeo circuit bronco buster, himself busted up a bit coming into the story, and a bit worse at its end. The story has a very authentic feeling to it. When the police are investigating a death by shooting, it's clear that much effort will be put into it because the guy got what he deserved, good riddance. Clearly they do things a bit differently in Arizona than in New York. The basic plot has been done before, yet the author didn't rely on story twist after twist, thank you for that. Lots of red herrings in the story, maybe too many. And the explanation of the crime at the end o the book took too long. The book is a bit over-cooked; but to its credit it did win a prize, a Hillerman, I believe for debut novel. BC smells like book one of a series and I'll be looking forward to the next offering from McKenzie, whether another Rodeo book or something else. I think there are too few really good writers like Cormac McCarthy and C.J. Box and too many over-rated ones, so McKenzie's arrival is a welcome one.BC is about a serial murder, and Rodeo is hired by a grandmother to find out more about one of the victims, her grandson. We meet a lot of characters from the lower end of the socio-economic scale, including Rodeo, who has more than his share of debts and seems to be hanging on by his fingernails. He describes the trashier side of Tucson's south side and doesn't overwhelm the reader with travel guide descriptions of the desert, mountains, etc. "Sweat" is a commonly used word in BC. Everyone in the story carries a gun. Everyone, sometimes more than one gun. Lots of drinking, but very little drugs. Lots of machismo. Some of the more interesting supporting cast, in addition to Rodeo's dog, include Sirena, an ultra-glamorous ex, who establishes an alibi for herself one night by handcuffing Rodeo to his bedpost and having her way with him all night, and Ronald Rocha, a superman/hitman/devil reminiscent of Anton Chigurh from No Country for Old Men. Rodeo's solution for ridding himself of the Ronald threat is almost reason alone to read BC. Enjoy.