THE DEVIL'S COUNTRY
by Harry Hunsicker
Former Texas Ranger Arlo Baines didn't come to the tiny West Texas town of Piedra Springs to cause trouble. After his wife and children were murdered, Arlo just wants to be left alone. Moving from place to place seems to be the only thing that eases the pain of his family's violent end.
But a chance encounter outside a bar forces him to rescue a terrified woman and her children from mysterious attackers. When the woman turns up murdered the next day - her children missing - Arlo becomes the primary suspect in exactly the same type of crime he is trying desperately to forget.
Haunted by the fate of his family, and with the police questioning the existence of the dead woman's children, Arlo decides it's his duty to find them. The question is, just how deep will he have to sink into the dusty secrets of Piedra Springs to save them and clear his name?
We meet Molly in the prologue, so desperate she’s prepared to kill her children before killing herself, all because she’s seen too much, knows people’s secrets, and those people are coming for her.
We then meet Arlo Baines, our protagonist. It’s his story, told in 1st person. The writing is spare, stylish, a mix of hard-boiled noir and Child’s Reacher novels. In fact, there’s much of Reacher in Baines. He’s a tough guy wondering through Texas. A lone wolf that finds trouble he can’t walk away from, despite being told many times to get out of town. That small town is Piedra Springs and like in a Wild West movie there’s a nosy Sherriff, and plenty of violent cowboys.
Former Texas Ranger Arlo Baines lost his wife and children. Now seen by some as a cop killer he just wants to be left alone to read his history books. When Arlo comes across a woman and her two children in peril he gets involved. His intervention is temporary though as the woman later turns up dead, her children missing. Arlo doesn’t get any help from the local law enforcers, they dismiss her as an unknown homeless hooker but something isn’t right. Arlo’s suspicions seem confirmed by a New York journalist who’s in town investigating crimes with a link to Piedra Springs.
The cast of characters are well drawn, each looking out for themselves and suitably quirky in this town that appears under the influence of some corrupt and very bad people. There are several flashbacks to Arlo’s previous life which allows insight on his character, and what a character. I liked his outlook, humour, honour and dogged approach. Under extreme pressure, and with the finger of guilt set on him, he keeps focused continuing to investigate where few would fear to tread.
The Devil’s Country is one heck of a read. The setting is visceral, the writing zings, and Reacher fans will love Arlo Baines.
About Harry Hunsicker:
Harry Hunsicker is the former executive vice president of the Mystery Writers of America. His work has been short-listed for both the Shamus and Thriller Awards. He lives in Dallas. The Devil’s Country is his seventh novel.