Crook’s Hollow is a countryside noir that’s dark, claustrophobic and with more turns and unforeseen twists than the tangled roots of a rural family tree. The first of its kind I’ve read and a stunning stand alone from the reliably talented Robert Parker.
We meet the protagonist Thor Loxley at the business end of a moving combine harvester and it’s no plot spoiler to say that Rob Parker is an unforgiving god to his lead man, for whom things go steadily from bad to worse. Simple in its premise (Thor wants to know who’s out to kill him and why), the author has created in Crook’s Hollow a lesson in how to craft a tight story on a small canvas that nonetheless keeps the action coming and the reader guessing right to the end. Parker’s a dab hand at summoning time and place in sufficient detail to allow the reader to immediately immerse in his world, but never at the expense of keeping the heart of the story beating. His characters are formed with clean outlines and they are instantly with us, no name confusion or need to flick back and reintroduce. Given the fairly wide cast, it’s an achievement he should be proud of, and one that more seasoned writers I’ve read of late have some homework to catch up on.
Personally, I love Parker’s turn of phrase, use of similes and lovely metaphors. Favourites include a day “labouring along” in one of those “maternity ward pauses”, and “bulging clouds”. Oh, yeah, expect rain. Lots of rain. But also get ready for a corkscrew twist, several in fact. Another of Parker’s trademark skills at work. But I’ll stop at that, in case I spoil this for you!
A slim, trim thriller, the Carolina Reaper of crime novels, this little fella ranks tops on the Scoville scale of entertainment for countryside noir.