Friday, December 28, 2012

Money Land by RS Guthrie: an independent novel review

How do you follow up a magnum opus?

With the best story you can tell, exploring new literary grounds.

Money Land is the sequel to RS Guthrie’s Blood Land, which was originally titled Dark Prairies. Guthrie himself called it his magnum opus, and any reader can see that the author had poured his heart, soul and sweat into it. It was an ambitious novel that successfully combined a western murder mystery with a deep human tragedy. Between the virtual covers of that one novel, Guthrie took on alcoholism, family estrangement, racism, government corruption, big money, the oil industry and unconstrained greed. He successfully portrayed the character of the independent Wyoming spirit and even managed to evoke old-time Western movies and the very real, if poorly understood Johnson County War.

Money Land picks up three years later, with the protanoist, Sheriff James Pruett of Wind River, Wyoming, having come to terms with his wife’s murder. He has been clean and sober since and has been rebuilding his relationship with his daughter, Wendy.

Guthrie has labelled this novel “A James Pruett Mystery.” It’s not as personal for the author as Blood Land or even as his paranormal/occult horror/mystery-thriller novels featuring Bobby Mac: Black Beast and LOST. Money Land is more of a straightforward mystery, and Guthrie succeeds in keeping his readers turning the pages (or flicking the screens of their e-readers).

Guthrie knows how to create deep, realistic characters that have many sides to them. There are aspects of his heroes that enrage me, and sides to the villains that could make me cry. Even the tertiary characters, like the dirtbags who mostly annoy and distract the Sheriff, have nuances that I admire. Creating a novel filled with complex characters takes a writer of skill and subtlety.

There are a few passages where the story drags: the back-story— or maybe it’s mid-story — where the author fills in the three years between Dark Prairies/Blood Land and Money Land. They’re few, and we can and should forgive Guthrie for these. They don’t detract from a gripping and rewarding novel.

Guthrie skillfully juxtaposes the ugliness of the worst of human behaviour against inspiring and tender relationships and the spectacular backdrop of Wyoming’s plains and mountains.

5 stars
Visit Rob Guthrie's blog.
Visit Rob Guthrie's website.
Purchase Money Land from Amazon.

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