cover image The Thicket

The Thicket

Joe R. Lansdale. Little, Brown/Mulholland, $26 (336p) ISBN 978-0-316-18845-6

Set in early 20th-century East Texas, this satisfying novel from Edgar-winner Lansdale (Edge of Dark Water) takes 16-year-old Jack Parker to darker places than he ever imagined. After Jack’s parents die of smallpox, his preacher grandfather determines to deliver Jack and his 14-year-old sister, Lula, to an aunt who lives across the Sabine River. While waiting for a ferry, they’re attacked by a band of men, who kill the grandfather, nearly kill Jack, and kidnap Lula. Having lost most of his family, Jack doesn’t intend to lose her and sets out after them. Soon he encounters an undersized bounty hunter, Shorty, and Eustace Cox, the grave-digging son of an ex-slave, who agree to help him rescue his sister for a price. As the body count rises, the narrative grows steadily more grim (if, at times, hilarious). Lansdale’s humor and skill at characterization come across well, though at moments the reader wishes for just a little more background detail. Agent: Danny Baror, Baror International. (Sept.)