Harry Hunsicker’s The Devil’s Country is a standalone read that pairs two engaging genres. With a murder mystery that hooks the reader from the prologue and a classic one-man stand against a plethora of enemies in a small, dusty town, the tale is an amalgamation of crime thriller and modern Western.
Arlo Baines is a smart and capable, if haunted, protagonist, a drifter with a law enforcement background, an inability to turn his back on someone in need, a ferocious set of skills, and a dogged determination to right wrongs. Two parallel narratives unfold over the course of the story: the present mystery and the events of Arlo’s past. The transitions between the narratives were disjointed at times, but a chilling thread of corruption’s saturation is present in both. To my mind, the story suffers from too much being packed into the pages and from a protagonist who announces his intentions before following through with the action.
That said, this was a tale with dark, sinister twists and turns. The action was riveting, and the straightforward, unadorned writing style was laced with sly humor and paired with surprising eloquence and evocative phrasing. The finely drawn setting painted a vivid picture of the harsh beauty of the west Texas landscape and showcased the strength of the author’s writing.
The tale is an exploration of how evil permeates a town, an ode to a stark and desolate region of America, and a glimpse into the resilience of the human spirit. With the classic tenets of an old Western, the gripping action and mystery of a crime thriller, and a sympathetic, relatable protagonist, The Devil’s Country is well worth the read.
Recommended for fans of Westerns, thrillers, and the Jack Reacher series