A Murder Country

Written by Brandon Daily
Review by Lynn Guest

The setting is the Appalachian country, thickly wooded and lightly settled, some time after the Civil War. The Rider believes he was called by a flaming angel to cleanse the world of sinners. Clothed in black, he travels the land carrying out God’s vengeance on those he thinks deserve it. When he murders Josiah’s parents, the boy sets out to take revenge on the Rider. Corvin, a youthful runaway who became a savage renegade, now a reformed adult, has returned to run his family’s coal mine. After a vicious attack on his beloved wife and the blowing up of his coal mine, he rides out to destroy the guilty men. The bulk of the novel consists of the various events and the people whom the three avengers encounter in this raw, violent backwoods country. The core of the novel comes when each must make a choice: kill or back away. Two choose murder, one turns back.

This is a very demanding read. The violence, blood and cruelty are relentless. Few characters show a modicum of decency. When two old men separately give food and sensible advice to Josiah, the relief is tremendous. The writing is dense, often poetic, sometimes verging on the pretentious, but the dialogue is superb and the towns and people are colourfully drawn and convincing, if pretty nasty on the whole. This is a very serious and very moral novel. By the end, the violence that seemed gratuitous is justified to prove the author’s message. Cormac McCarthy is referred to on the jacket and, in subject matter and dialogue, it is a reasonable comparison. Readers who can wade through the blood may find their perseverance richly rewarded.