Cover image for Bad country : a novel
Bad country : a novel
McKenzie, C. B.
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Publication Information:
New York : Minotaur Books, 2014.
Physical Description:
294 pages ; 22 cm
"The newest winner of the Tony Hillerman Prize, a debut mystery set in the Southwest starring a former rodeo cowboy turned private investigator, told in a transfixingly original style. Rodeo Grace Garnet lives alone, save for his old dog, in a remote corner of Arizona known to locals as the Hole. He doesn't get many visitors, but a body found near his home has drawn police attention to his front door. The victim is not one of the many illegal immigrants who risk their lives to cross the border just south of the Hole, but is instead a member of one of the local Indian tribes. Retired from the rodeo circuit and scraping by on piece-work as a private investigator, Rodeo doesn't have much choice but to say yes when offered an unusual case. An elderly Indian woman has hired him to help discover who murdered her grandson, but she seems strangely uninterested in the results. Her indifference seems heartless, but as Rodeo pursues his case he learns that it's nothing compared to true hatred. And he's about to realize just how far hate can go. CB McKenzie's Bad Country captures the rough-and-tumble corners of the Southwest in accomplished, confident prose, with a hardnosed plot that will keep readers riveted"--
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Central Library FICTION Adult Fiction Popular Materials-Mystery
Boston Free Library FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf
Clearfield Library FICTION Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense
Hamburg Library FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf
Kenmore Library FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf
Lancaster Library FICTION Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense
Orchard Park Library FICTION Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense
Anna M. Reinstein Library FICTION Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense
Julia Boyer Reinstein Library FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf

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Winner of the Tony Hillerman Prize, winner of the Spur Award for Best Western Contemporary Novel, a finalist for a New Mexico-Arizona Book Award, a finalist for the Shamus Award for Best First P.I. Novel, and a finalist for the Edgar Award for Best First Novel, a debut mystery set in the Southwest starring a former rodeo cowboy turned private investigator, told in a transfixingly original style.

Rodeo Grace Garnet lives with his old dog in a remote corner of Arizona known to locals as El Hoyo . He doesn't get many visitors in The Hole, but a body found near his home has drawn police attention to his front door. The victim is not one of the many undocumented immigrants who risk their lives to cross the border in Rodeo's harsh and deadly "backyard," but a member of a major Southwestern Indian tribe, whose death is part of a mysterious rompecabeza -a classic crime puzzler-that includes multiple murders, cold-blooded betrayals, and low-down scheming, with Rodeo caught in the middle.

Retired from the rodeo circuit and scraping by on piecework as a bounty hunter, warrant server, and divorce snoop, Rodeo doesn't have much choice but to say yes when offered an unusual case. An elderly Indian woman from his own Reservation has hired him to help discover who murdered her grandson, but she seems strangely uninterested in the results. Her attitude seems heartless, but as Rodeo pursues interrelated cases, he learns that the old woman's indifference is nothing compared to true hatred, and aligned against a variety of creative and cruel foes, the hard-pressed PI is about to discover just how far hate can go.

CB McKenzie's Bad Country is a noir novel that is as deep and twisty as a desert arroyo. With confident, accomplished prose, McKenzie captures the rough-and-tumble outer reaches of the Southwest in a transfixingly original style that transcends the traditional crime novel.

Author Notes

A native Texan, CB MCKENZIE has through-hiked the Appalachian Trail and worked as a housepainter, haute couture model, farmhand, and professor in a wide variety of locales around the world, including New York and Vermont, Miami and Milan, Tokyo and Tucson. He earned both an M.F.A. and a Ph.D. from the University of Arizona. Though he currently lives in California, he still keeps his pickups in Tucson and Texas. Bad Country is his first novel.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

A series of murders in remote Los Jarros County in southernmost Arizona soon involves PI Rodeo Grace Garnet: the fourth victim is found shot in his front yard when he and his dog return from a week's vacation. Then Garnet is hired by the grandmother of the third victim, 18-year-old Sammy Rocha, to find his killer. Native American Garnet, who grew up on the res but was trained to be a cowboy and had brief success on the rodeo circuit, soon identifies as his top suspect a dangerous man who turns out to have loved Sammy and threatens bodily harm if Garnet doesn't find the real killer. At the same time, a state cop is turning a suspicious eye on Garnet himself because he previously apprehended and beat to death a serial killer. Garnet is a protagonist who's private to his core as he operates in the worlds of the Anglo and the Indian but seems to belong to neither. Winner of the 2013 Tony Hillerman Prize for the best first mystery set in the Southwest, this is a fine example of southwestern noir.--Leber, Michele Copyright 2014 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Originality is the strong suit of Mackenzie's Tony Hillerman Prize-winning debut. PI Rodeo Grace Garnet, a Pascua Yaqui who's the sole resident of Vista Montana Estates in El Hoyo, Ariz., returns home from vacation to find a man shot dead by his front gates, "two jumbled piles of cinder block" on either side of a dirt road. Garnet first calls Sheriff "Apache" Ray Molina to report the crime, then notifies his lawyer, Jarred Willis, in Tucson, just in case law enforcement wants him for questioning. Later, a state trooper asks Garnet about three other recent murders in the area. Meanwhile, Katherine Rocha, a fellow Pascua Yaqui, asks him to look into the drive-by killing of her gang-member grandson, though she's curiously indifferent to his fate. Wild cards include Garnet's ex-girlfriend and Ray's daughter, Sirena Rae Molina, and anthropology professor Tinley Burke, who dreams of being a writer. Drawing on this melange of quirky personalities and Southwestern settings, McKenzie offers the reader an intriguing mystery and a new hero. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

This Southwestern-flavored series launch introduces retired bronco rider-turned-PI Rodeo Grace Garnet. Raised on Arizona's Pascua Yaqui Reservation but caught between the Anglo and Native American worlds, Rodeo mourns the passing of the traditional ways. Returning from vacation, he discovers a corpse sprawled on the road in front of his house. The victim is a member of a local tribe. There has been a spate of unsolved murders in Los Jarros County, which Sheriff "Apache" Ray Molina is investigating. Then Luis Encarnacion, proprietor of the Twin Arrows Trading Post and Rodeo's best friend, urges Rodeo to probe the drive-by shooting of a young Hispanic boy, Samuel Rocha, in Tucson. Soon Apache Ray is dead, along with a professor from the university, and Rodeo is beaten up by Ronald Rocha, Samuel's uncle. Someone knows a lot more than they are saying. VERDICT Winner of the Tony Hillerman Prize for the Best Debut Mystery set in the Southwest, this edgy noir offers a master class on how to create a vivid sense of mood and place. Rodeo is a hard-nosed, hard-drinking man who searches for the truth as he understands it. Fans of the late, great Hillerman will cheer the arrival of a promising newcomer. [Previewed in Kristi Chadwick's "Pushing Boundaries" mystery feature, LJ 4/15/14.] (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



As instructed, the man stopped at a certain landmark in the desert, stripped and used the cheap folding knife to cut his dusty khakis and T-shirt into small pieces. He tossed his old clothes bit by bit into a hard wind, unpacked the plastic trash bag and re-dressed in new clothes. He squatted in the skeletal shade of a creosote bush, sliced his last apple and chewed and swallowed each piece slowly then sipped bleach-treated water from a recycled milk jug through the heat of the day. Near sundown he cut the jug into small pieces and threw them and the knife into a steep-sided arroyo, took his bearings and then tore his map into small bits and broadcast these as he walked north. When he neared the meeting place he hustled through slanting shadows and hid behind the large boulder so that he could espy in both directions the sparse traffic on Agua Seco Road. As he waited his eyes strayed toward a solitary cloud towed north by invisible forces. A call and response from a pair of falcons hunting late he took as a good omen. During the night a vehicle stopped in the middle of the turn-out. Muffled by closed doors and raised windows, the music from the SUV sounded like something the waiting man might hear when he stood outside a cathedral. When the vehicle shut down it was as if a trapdoor had opened on the surface of the world and all extant sound fallen through it. When a door unlatched, the dome light in the cab of the SUV illuminated a passenger in the backseat as a dark face under a white hat. The figure that emerged on the driver's side had on a billed cap, dark glasses and a plastic coat that glimmered in the moonlight. This is your ride, hombre. The command was a hoarse whisper aimed directly at the hiding place. Levántate. Into la luz. The waiting man stepped into the glare of the headlights. Tienes algo? the driver asked. Nada, the man said. He spread his arms wide with his hands open. He had nothing but the new clothes on his back and the old boots on his feet, had no identification, no keys, weapons, cell phone or any paper with writing or numbers on it. He had no photographs of family, no money, no tattoos or identifiable scars, wore no jewelry and had never been arrested on either side of the border. He did not even know the name of his employer. Eres Indio? the driver asked. Si, soy Indio, the man said. The man lowered his arms and waited for words that made more sense to him. Has estado esperando mucho? the driver asked. Si. Todo mi vida. The bill of the driver's gimme cap tilted down and then up. I have been waiting my whole life for this too, the driver said. The back door of the SUV opened and the man moved out of the headlights and toward his ride. Adonde va? he asked. Trabajar, hombre, said the driver. We go to work now. Rodeo and his dog drove over "Elm Street," which was but a collection of ruts and potholes, streambed cuts and corduroy stretches that led from the paved Agua Seco Ranch Road into a small dead end of southern Arizona called El Hoyo, The Hole. Where the man and his dog lived was supposed to have been a full-service, upscale trailer park with concrete pads radiating like the segmented spokes of a big wagon wheel from the hub of an Activities Center, and wound through these spokes like a gourd vine a nine-hole golf course. But the investment venture had been mistimed and misplaced and so remained as only a concentric grid of blade-graded dirt roads marked at random intersections by unlikely green-and-white street signs now aimed into all compassed directions and bent by gravity to all angles of repose, mostly a collection of unpaid property taxes and dirt off the grid. The old dog on the shotgun seat whined when he scented blood. Rodeo slowed as he approached the "gates" of his place, two jumbled piles of cinder block on either side of the dirt road with a sign advertising VISTA MONTANA ESTATES--AN ACTIVE LIFE COMMUNITY skewered on a splintered pole like a reminder note to do something later. Cállate, Rodeo said. The dog was quiet at his man's command. * * * The corpse was facedown in the dirt, his jeans-clad legs widespread, boot toes pointed back, arms outstretched like a small, misguided Superman buried in a dead-end earthly mission. The back of his red, white and blue shirt was blown into shreds. Hung up on a piece of rebar, a pristine white straw cowboy hat twirled slowly in a breeze. Rodeo sat for a long moment with a boot vibrating on the clutch pad, then he shifted the truck into neutral and stomped on the emergency brake. When the dog started barking Rodeo reached below the bench seat, pulled the 9mm from its stash site, jacked a load into the Glock and stepped out of the truck. A cottontail hopped around a pile of vent bricks and froze and twitched and stared at the man with the gun. Rodeo waved his pistol but the rabbit moved toward the dead man where it sat trembling in the pool of congealed blood. Rodeo reached back through the open window and pounded the truck's horn and the rabbit hopped away, his white paws tracing red across the desert. Vultures drifted overhead. Crows defined the margins of the crime scene by picking at spattered flesh and bone. Rodeo reentered his vehicle, re-holstered his hideaway, calmed his dog, made a U-turn and headed back to the nearest place where cell phone reception was dependable. * * * Where you at, Garnet? The voice of the Los Jarros County sheriff sounded in the cell phone like creek gravel sifted in a tin mining pan. Rodeo sat in the shade of the gas pumps island of Twin Arrows Trading Post, which establishment along with the handful of trailer houses scattered around it, passed as a village in a small county in Southern Arizona mostly uninhabited. He stared out the cracked windscreen of his truck at a sky that was bluewhite as an old blister. I'm at the Store, Ray. Where you at? I'm up to my ass in a crime scene right now over at the Boulder Turn-Out, so spare me the details if that's possible. Dead man by my front gates, said Rodeo. Well, that's a short story, said the sheriff. You know him? I don't know him, Ray. He's a little man, probably Indio but probably not local. What have you got at the Boulder Turn-Out? Some sort of death by misadventure, the sheriff said. And the body's been here a while, so it's tough for Doc Boxer to figure some theory out that will fit the evidence at hand. What is the evidence, Ray? Another dead Indian is the long and short of it. What's the official theory about these dead Indians in Los Jarros County, Ray? We are understaffed and official theory-short about Major Crimes in Los Jarros County Sheriff's Department recently, said the sheriff. Rodeo said nothing. You got some idea, Garnet? Official or otherwise? State should send somebody down from Major Crimes Department to deal with my trouble out at the Estates, said Rodeo. I doubt it's just your trouble, Garnet, said the lawman. And I'm still the sheriff of Los Jarros County, so I'll decide what needs to be done when I see what this new trouble is. What do you want me to do, Ray? You just sit tight at the Store, said the sheriff. * * * Hypothetical ... Rodeo said. He was on the pay phone outside Twin Arrows Trading Post talking to his lawyer, Jarred Willis, who was in his well-appointed office in downtown Tucson. I got my own shit to do, Chief, so put me out of my misery already. You know where my place in El Hoyo is at, said Rodeo. You hid a Jaguar XJ with Texas plates in my storage shed last year, a vehicle that was later found in East Tucson with a dead cholo and his pit bull in the trunk. That car was never registered in my name so don't get on one of your Indian warpaths or this will be a very short conversation, Tonto. The lawyer paused. So what's got up in your Hole out there most recently? A dead man nearby the front gates of my place, said Rodeo. And The Hole's not someplace you get to be dead in usually unless it's by starvation or dehydration. And these were not the case? Death by shotgun would be my guess. You didn't touch him? No point, said Rodeo. When was he killed, do you think? When I was away on vacation this last week sometime. How many times I got to tell you to call the cops first, Tonto? It just looks real bad when you call your lawyer first thing because modern law enforcement can track these cellular phone shit conversations like Pocahontas could track short white dick in deep dark woods. This is a pay phone. Ray's on the way. Well, if you're smart as all that, Chief, then you don't need a lawyer, do you? I've often wondered about that myself, said Rodeo. Rodeo's lawyer laughed really loud. Well, play it straight as you usually do then, Chief. And remember Law Enforcement don't do Citizens favors, so don't admit nothing to Police and don't let them anywhere without a warrant and don't invoke your lawyer's name until you are firmly behind bars. Good to know my lawyer's got my back like that. Save the sarcasm for the rodeo clown you rode in on, cowboy, said Willis. And you got about thirty seconds left on your retainer to tell me if you been in any shit lately. I did that thing in New Mexico a couple of months ago and then found a lost kid and a lost husband and did a bit of divorce snooping in the last several weeks. Rodeo paused for a moment. Then right before I went on vacation I served papers on several minor characters for A-2-Z Bailbonds, but no criminals. So it's been nothing major or personal for a while. Then the dead man in your driveway's probably nothing major or personal, Tonto. So just stay out of trouble on this and let Law Enforcement do their business. Can I call you if Law Enforcement hauls me in? You're welcome to drop by my office in the Old Pueblo if you bring beers, said Willis. But you're too low-rent for me these days, Chief. And since this phone call took care of what was left of your retainer fee I'll just have to say hasta la vista to you as a client. The lawyer hung up before the private investigator could. Copyright © 2014 by CB McKenzie Excerpted from Bad Country by C. B. McKenzie All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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