Anthony Neil Smith : Yellow Medicine

Yellow Medicine

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Mysteries & Thrillers

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James Lee Burke, John Sandford, Stephen Hunter, Andrew Vachss, George Pelecanos

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Deputy Billy Lafitte is not unfamiliar with the law—he just prefers to enforce it, rather than abide by it. But his rule-bending and bribe-taking have gotten him kicked off the force in Gulfport, Mississippi, and he’s been given a second chance—in the desolate, Siberian wastelands of rural Minnesota. Now Billy’s only got the local girls and local booze to keep him company. Until one of the local girls—cute little Drew, bassist for a psychobilly band—asks Billy for help with her boyfriend. Something about the drugs Ian’s been selling, some product he may have lost, and the men who are threatening him because of it. Billy agrees to look into it, and before long he’s speeding down a snowy road, tracking a cell of terrorists, with a severed head in his truck’s cab. And that’s only the start.

Editorial Reviews

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY: Deputy Billy Lafitte's ethically-flexible approach to law enforcement has led to his dismissal from the force in Gulfport, Miss., and the break-up of his marriage in this well-written if grim contemporary noir from Smith (The Drummer). Through the intercession of his brother-in-law, Lafitte has found a new job in remote Yellow Medicine County, Minn., but his continuing corrupt ways land him in all sorts of trouble, with a trail of bodies following in his wake. His involvement with some meth dealers leads him to cross paths with some Malaysian terrorists, who are plotting to strike at America's heartland. The terrorists frame Lafitte for some gruesome murders, using the knife he'd gotten from his father to decapitate some of their victims. Smith deserves credit for taking a risk by creating a character like Lafitte, whose private code of honor-if any-is far more obscure than an antihero like Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer.

BOOKLIST: Have you ever wondered what would happen if a wiseacre southern deputy with vigilante overtones got himself transferred, thanks to Hurricane Katrina, to the frozen wastes of the Minnesota prairie? Probably not, but Smith, himself a Gulf Coast migrant to the northern flatlands, is determined to find out in this series debut that stars Deputy Billy Lafitte, a troubled transplant with a plethora of personal problems. His ex-wife and two kids, whom he professes to love devoutly, are sequestered by his in-laws Down South, leaving him no choice but to dally with a singer named Drew, who is unhappily but madly infatuated with a boyfriend of her own. That boyfriend ends up not only murdered but decapitated, and the last person with whom he can be placed is the deputy himself. Intent to clear himself, Deputy Billy is soon tangling with a drug mob and—not again!—terrorists (in Minnesota!). All in all, though, Smith has a powerful voice and delivers quite a romp, offering along the way a sort of Tony Hillerman glimpse into a part of the country that is not often the subject of crime fiction. --Steve Glassman

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