A fine backwoods thriller…

The Terror of Living by Urban Waite

It was the quote from Daniel Woodrell (an author of whom I’m a huge fan, see here), on the cover that made me instantly want to read this book, a debut novel set in the backwoods border country near Seattle.  To all outward appearances it’s a crime thriller, set in the murky and violent world of drug smuggling, but it also felt very like a modern western, grounded in Cormac McCarthy territory.  At it’s heart are two men, the hunter and the hunted, and when a third enters the story, their roles will be turned around again and again.

Hunt is an ex-convict.  He lives quietly on a small ranch with his wife Nora. They struggle to make ends meet, so Hunt takes on the occasional drug-smuggling job.  When he’s asked to take a new young lad on the latest trip to help bring the drugs down from the mountain drop on horseback, the moment he sees the boy he feels something will go wrong.

Drake is a deputy Sheriff.  He patrols the backwoods up from Seattle to the border with Canada.  He’s recently married to Sheri, and still trying to shake off the shadow of his father who used to be a Sheriff, but is now in prison for drug smuggling.

Drake spots a city car parked on a logging road in the middle of nowhere, and decides to investigate.  This will spark off a whole chain of events that will lead to a trail of murder, mayhem and an awful lot of spilled blood as a hitman is hired to mete out punishments and allow the nasty men at the top of the tree recover the drugs when it all goes up the creek.   It’s not just Hunt and his associates that are at risk from the hitman, it soon becomes clear that Drake will be targeted too, and he teams up with Agent Driscoll from the DEA to see the case through.

This novel was a compulsive read and so bloody!  Once Grady the psychotic hitman arrives on the scene, things start to happen in true serial killer fashion.  But the story is not his, it’s of Hunt and Drake – two men who are very alike in character.  Both have done their time, Hunt in actual jail, Drake living down the shame of his father.   They’re so similar that sometimes I was confused which one I was reading about – the only criticism I really have about this rather good book.  I did rather like the dry DEA Officer, Driscoll – for some reason I kept picturing him as Dan Ackroyd; Driscoll had a feel of Elwood Blues about him!

If you can cope with all the blood, this is a fine debut thriller with a superb setting and a classic cat and mouse chase at its heart. (9/10)

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I got my review copy from Amazon Vine. To buy from Amazon.co.uk, click below:
The Terror of Living by Urban Waite


5 thoughts on “A fine backwoods thriller…

  1. Ooooh this one sounds like its rather good indeed Annabel and one that I dont think I would have heard about if it hadn’t been for this post. I am going to see if I can order it in at my local library, I loved a good gory thriller!

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