Surprisingly addictive, this bleak and bloody tale teases with the playful humour of the loggers alongside cruel and calculating plots for murder and revenge. Rich descriptions of the terrain and wildlife blend happily with the intriguing, often ruthless characters that kept me hooked throughout.
'What about them traps at the commissary you bait with cheese?' Dunbar asked. 'You all tried them?'
'These is some bully rats,' Ross said. 'They'd likely haul the traps down to the commissary and turn them back in for a rebate, same as you would a sody bottle.'
'The thing to kill them is snakes,' Snipes said, examining his boots as he spoke, 'but that eagle has done upset what the Orientals call the yen and the yang.'
'What does that mean?' Dunbar asked.
'The way things is balanced. Everything in the world has its natural place, and if you take something out or put something in that ought not to be out or in, everything gets lopsided and out of sorts.'
'Kindly like not having different seasons,' Dunbar said.
'Exactly. If you was to have just winter all year round we'd freeze, and if it was summer all year the water would dry up and your crops die.'
'I wouldn't mind spring all year round,' Dunbar said. 'It's warm but there's rain, and everything's sprouting and feeling alive, the birds all a-singing.'
'That'd be the problem,' Snipes said. 'You'd have too much aliveness. Everything would be sprouting all the time, and pretty soon there'd be trees and vines and grass covering every inch of the earth. You'd need your axe every morning just to whittle you out a place to stand up.'
Ross finished the last of his moonshine, and raised his gaze to take in the gray and brown valley floor, the scalped ridges of Noland Mountain.
'So what happens when there ain't nothing left alive at all?' he asked.