Sweetwater Ranch

Geoffrey Norman, Author
Geoffrey Norman, Author Atlantic Monthly Press $18.95 (261p) ISBN 978-0-87113-371-7
Reviewed on: 03/04/1991
Release date: 03/01/1991
Mass Market Paperbound - 978-0-440-21219-5
Hardcover - 464 pages - 978-0-7089-3671-9
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Sweetwater Ranch is an orphanage in the Florida panhandle run by John ``Big John'' Frearson, ex-pro football player and all around good guy. When one of his boys turns up missing, he calls his lawyer friend, Nat ``I-don't-try-to-get-guilty-men-off'' Semmes, who in turn enlists protagonist and narrator Morgan Hunt. The latter is an ex-marine for whom Semmes won a pardon when Hunt had been convicted of murdering his sister's abusive husband. After Hunt finds the boy, another orphan files a spurious lawsuit against Frearson for abuse, masterminded by a sleazy lawyer and corrupt ex-cop. Pressured by an impatient insurance company, Semmes is forced to settle out of court, thus besmirching Big John's name. Hunt eventually uncovers a conspiracy among the plaintiff trio, leading to a violent confrontation. Although Norman ( Midnight Water ) nicely conveys an innocent person's feeling of helplessness against an unjust accusation, an absence of subtlety weakens the plot. The good guys (real men)stet are country folk who clean their own fish, know their way around cars, and say ``No need,'' when thanked. The bad guys are outsiders corrupted by money and the city's fleshpots. Though Sweetwater Ranch (the first of a projected series) is an amiable, sometimes compelling read, it's difficult to root for a protagonist who, because his end is just, is willing to dispense with the rule of law. (Mar.)
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