In this prequel to "Drawing Dead," we meet Joe Crow and see his dissatisfaction with being a cop.
As the story begins, Joe manages to get himself fired for handcuffing the sheriff's relative, Ricky Murphy, to Ricky's Hummer and leaving him there.
Joe's brother, David Getter, gets him a job as a bodyguard to Dr. Nelson Bellweather (Nellie Bellie). Nellie is a plastic surgeon and trophy hunter with a home full of mounted animal heads.
George and Ricky Murphy own the Talking Lake Ranch where they arrange hunters to come to shoot animals that the Murphy's have set up as easy kills. George's son, Shawn, tells his father something that makes the family enraged and desirous of revenge on Nellie for an insult to the family.
Shawn goes out in the snow and shoots his father's prized Elk, an animal that George wanted to use for a hunt at a $20,000 fee. Now George must think of a way to set it up to still get the money from an unsuspecting hunter.
Shawn runs away to the doctor's home and much of the story details the Murphy's search for Shawn and Nellie with Joe Crow trying to keep Nellie safe and learning that Shawn is with Nellie and that Nellie is attempting to get a reward before turning Shawn back to his father.
This is a dialogue driven novel and I see much influence of Mark Twain and Elmore Leonard. It was fun to picture John Travolta in Leonard's "Get Shorty" and think of Travolta playing Joe Crow in a similar movie.
In his blog, Hautman tells of the influence of Twain, in the character descriptions, the humor and in keeping the discourse to a bare minimum.
Also, the character of Shawn seems to be a mixture of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. Where Sawyer ran away from home in the start of that novel, and Finn was the son of the town drunk.
Overall a fun read.