ASSUMPTION by Percival Everett

Book Quote:

“I’ll tell you what this is, it’s two gallons of shit in a one-gallon bucket.”

Book Review:

Review by Poornima Apte  (NOV 17, 2011)

The hardscrabble desert land of New Mexico is the perfect setting for Percival Everett’s new novel, Assumption, mainly because it mirrors the protagonist’s character incredibly well. Ogden Walker is a deputy in the sheriff’s office in the small town of Plata, where he serves after a brief stint in the army. Plata might be where mom Eva Walker lives but Ogden finds her presence not enough of a comfort to overcome his unease with his mixed African American heritage (he is biracial) or his general malaise with what seems to be a dead-end career. He finds it hard to be content hunting for the small fish even if a colleague tells him, “A big fish is fun, I suppose, but so are small ones sometimes. Depends on the water. If I catch a ten-incher in a creek that’s two foot wide, that’s a big fish.”

One day, when an old lady in town is shot dead in her own home, Walker is not sure quite where to begin. His investigations eventually lead him to discover that she might have been part of some hate groups — it’s a hard paradox to serve the very people who might wish you harm. Before this murder is completely resolved, there’s more trouble. The body count rises again, this time through a seemingly unrelated murder on the other end of town.

This incident has Walker chasing down prostitutes in seedy sections of Denver. This mystery snowballs into a third one where a fellow law enforcement agent is shot and again, nobody knows what happened and how. As Everett goes about putting all the pieces together, the writing increasingly reaches a feverish pitch and one wonders if anybody is keeping count as the body count ratchets up easily and steadily. “Warren moved on to the next structure, knowing nothing more than that he was confused,” writes Everett of Ogden’s coworker, Warren Fragua, “More so with each piece of this puzzle, if in fact these were pieces, if in fact this was a puzzle.” That same disorienting sensation works itself on to the pages of this fast-paced novel.

Assumption is full of razor-sharp dialog and Everett does a wonderful job of capturing the gritty landscape but the disparate story threads and sudden detours in the action occasionally make the book trying.

With the twists and turns in the story, the moral of the novel might well be to assume nothing. But it sure feels like Everett goes to great lengths just to make that point. After a while the story is not so much genre-bending as genre-defying. Readers who like their suspense stories resolved well will find Everett’s latest novel frustrating. Even the surprise ending might not help redeem matters in such a case.

On the other hand, readers who love the chase as much as the outcome, will find Assumption entertaining and a fun ride. When one of the characters in the novel points out that the whole mess is “hinky as hell,” they will only be too happy. After all, when it comes to murder mysteries, “hinky” is good.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-0from 1 readers
PUBLISHER: Graywolf Press (October 25, 2011)
REVIEWER: Poornima Apte
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Wikipedia page on Percival Everett
EXTRAS: Excerpt
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November 17, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Mystery/Suspense, Thriller/Spy/Caper, US Southwest, Wild West, y Award Winning Author

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