Book Talk: ‘Blood in the Bayou’
At the outset, let me say that this is a book worth reading and that, on the whole, I enjoyed it. But I almost didn’t read it. The book, “Blood in the Bayou” (2021, 290 pages), is written by C.M. Sutter, another author who is new to me. In my continuing effort to discover writers who have recently published their debut novels, I’ve run into a few poor writers/storytellers, and a couple of really bad ones. You will never read about their works in this column. I only review the good ones.
Ms. Sutter tells a good, but grisly story, once one gets past Page 3. In those extremely important first pages, she throws 18 names at the reader. Fifteen of them have absolutely nothing to do with the plot and are never mentioned again. Only one of them reappears, and that is very briefly without effect on the storyline. I also found the denouement to be a bit corny. But between the open and closing pages, Ms. Sutter has written a riveting murder-mystery.
Her protagonist, FBI Agent Jade Monroe has received a promotion, a new assignment, and a very protective partner, whom she calls “Renz,” short for Lorenzo. Jade and Renz have barely introduced themselves to each other when they are tagged for a case in the bayou country of Louisiana, where strangers are not only unwelcome, but also in danger of being shot as trespassers.
They have five days to investigate multiple sites where human bones have been found. In an area that is home to alligators and dangerous wild boars, it’s not uncommon to find scattered human remains, but these bones have been stripped of their flesh as if a butcher did the job. Moreover, the bones were found on leased land where people are allowed to hunt boars, and the hunters are unwilling to talk to feds.
As the case quickly changes from a search for missing persons to trying to stop a serial killer, Jade realizes that she and Renz need a go-between. They find one in Bob Hebert who is very accommodating and willing to help. Bob knows the back country and is an expert tracker. He also claims to know the two hunters who discovered the bones, and he provides the federal agents with a list of names of possible suspects. From the outset, Renz is uncomfortable about having Bob as a “consultant,” but Jade relies on him because the two agents have absolutely no clues and even less knowledge of swampy bayous.
Ms. Sutter, who has written about 30 books in the mystery-crime genre, claims that Blood in the Bayou is the first in the “Jade Monroe Live or Die” series. I’m surprised that a veteran writer like her would overwhelm the reader with so many immaterial names in her opening paragraphs, but that miscue in this book does not deter me from anticipating the sequel.
I recommend Blood in the Bayou, but not to readers who may be squeamish about learning the secret that accounts for the carefully butcher bones.
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Jim Glynn may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.