In Richelieu Parish, Louisiana, in 1956, Sheriff Bobby Boudreaux has some problems: altar boy Ti Boy Brouliette has died, cleaning his shotgun; reporter Ruth Ann Daigle believes it was no accident; and Ruth Ann produces powerful, disturbing feelings in Bobby, distracting him from his wife BeBe, the daughter of state senator Papoot Gaspard and sister of Father Justin Gaspard.
Weill has assembled a colorful cast of characters who would run the risk of being caricatures were it not for the fact that the author invests such authenticity into this novel. Senator Gaspard is the embodiment of the old-style politician, trading favors for votes, his good-old-boy jollity masking his ruthlessness. Father Justin’s air of detached saintliness also masks something more sinister, while father Li’l Shot Fontenot and son Big Shot Fontenot provide some comic relief. Ruth Ann’s investigations into Ti Boy’s death and President Prejean’s challenging Gaspard’s senate seat cause ripples in this sleepy Southern world, and when change comes, it comes at a price.
The South in the 1950s is as much a character as anyone else in the novel, and the heat, dissoluteness, and eccentricity are palpable. A skillful blend of quirkiness and gravitas, this is a memorable novel.