The Bayou Trilogy Review
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Deep in the bayou of Louisiana, the shady little town of St. Bruno nestles in a swamp full of corruption. Detective Rene Shade swims through the filth and does his best to remain honest himself. But his brother, Francois, is a D.A. on one side, and his other brother, Tip, runs a bar where felons, petty thieves, and a host of other lowlifes are always welcome. And it doesn’t help that Shade used to run with crooked friends himself before he joined the police force.

In The Bayou Trilogy, readers are treated to three complete short Rene Shade novels. Under the Bright Lights has Detective Shade hunting an assassin who takes out Alvin Rankin—a man who could have been the first black mayor of St. Bruno. Muscle for the Wing lands Shade in a precarious situation, where he has to work with Shuggie Zeck—a childhood friend who ended up on the wrong side of the law and stayed there. The job? Take down a cop killer—but in an unofficial manner, so both the good guys and the bad guys are happy. Finally, The Ones You Do finds Shade suspended from the force and working through his relationship with long-time girlfriend, Nicole, while his father, John X. Shade, returns to St. Bruno on the run with a daughter in tow.

Shade is not your typical detective—he’s almost as bad as the crooks he brings in—but he has enough of a heart to protect the innocent and do his job by the book when it suits his purposes. Most of the time, I don’t like characters like him, but something about him just drew me in. I could believe that he was doing the best he knew how, while surrounded by scoundrels on all sides. Plus, his wit and sarcasm made me laugh out loud while appreciating the wisdom in his words.

The mystery and apprehension of the swamp blend nicely with the downtrodden town of St. Bruno, where most everyone looks out for number one. It’s a place that you don’t want to find yourself stuck in—because you may never get out—yet you’ll be totally fascinated by the atmosphere, and you’ll be unable to tear yourself away.

Author Daniel Woodrell has a unique, uncompromising, and quirkily poetic way with words, and he writes some of the best, most realistic dialogue that I’ve ever encountered in any book. His characters’ thoughts are so entertaining and distinctive that you’ll know who’s on stage without a name being giving.

I did a lot of laughing and a lot of deep thinking while spending time in St. Bruno. With its rough edges and rougher characters, The Bayou Trilogy may not be for everyone, but I found it to be a highly entertaining read—and I recommend it for anyone who’s looking for something different in a detective novel.

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