Go to Homepage   J. M. Hayes: Prairie Gothic


Crescent Blues Book ViewsPoisoned Pen Press (Hardcover), ISBN: 1-59058-050-8
Blizzards and inbreeding and murder, oh my…

As a massive blizzard howls across Buffalo Springs in Benteen County, Kan., Sheriff "Englishman" English's town spins out of control. His brother, Mad Dog, honors a Book: J M Hayes, prairie gothic
man's dying wish by spiriting him out of a nursing home after his death to give him a proper Native American burial. Never mind that Tommie Irons' family despises the idea and promptly raises a ruckus about body snatching and missing personal valuables. Then, an elderly woman with Alzheimer's arrives back at the nursing home after a short walk carrying a dead newborn instead of the plastic doll she departed with. To compound matters, the sheriff's daughters (one natural, one foster, both named Heather) vanish with nothing but a cheerful note saying they would be back later.

Thus begins a long and confusing day for everyone in the town. Englishman hunts for his daughters, who coerced Deputy Wynn into teaching them how to drive a stick shift. The blizzard strands Wynn and the Heathers, and they take off across the whitened countryside for shelter. They ultimately arrive at the homestead of a locally prominent family, the Hornbakers. Becky Hornbaker, Tommie Irons' sister, welcomes them -- or so it seems. After Becky leaves abruptly, the girls get nosy and investigate the house. When they stumble across Hornbaker family secrets, including an old woman caged in an upstairs bedroom, Levi Hornbaker dumps the girls and the deputy out on a screened-in porch to freeze to death. But the Heathers refuse to accept their fate and begin hunting for a way out.

Book: J M Hayes, the grey pilgrim
Mad Dog's trip to bury Tommie Irons succeeds despite the blizzard. But after finding long-buried bones nearby -- and getting his cell phone shot from his ear -- Mad Dog hightails it back to town. Pursued by the shooter and stymied by a washed-out bridge, Mad Dog takes to the fields and ultimately "borrows" a Blazer from the Hornbaker residence. He ends up with a stowaway, a young and rather simple woman named Mary, before heading for town to get his ear patched and incidentally help solve the day's mysteries.

As the storm intensifies, the web of confusion broadens, ensnaring all of the Hornbaker family. Before the day ends, all their dirty laundry, murder and worse come to light. Although bordering a bit on the soap opera side of outrageous, the novel's twists grab the reader from the start and don't let go until the final page.

Jen Foote

Click here to share your views.