Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Finished: "Yellow Medicine" by Anthony Neil Smith

Finished: Yellow Medicine by Anthony Neil Smith, 2008, 978193257701.

This was good but I'm ultimately not sure what to think. I raised my expectations way too high after reading such good press about the novel and was criticizing rather than enjoying. The plot was a bit too outrageous to convince me and some characters could have used some more description and presence. I was reminded a couple times of James Crumley’s work but cannot recall why.

Billy Lafitte is fired from his Deputy job in Mississippi after taking bribes and working the black market post-Katrina. The illegal shenanigans Lafitte was up to are never really explained but you know he is a bad egg.

Freshly divorced after the scandal of his firing Lafitte gets a job offer as a Deputy from his ex-brother-in-law who is the Sheriff in Yellow Medicine County, MN. Lafitte has some Southern charm and starts ingratiating himself with co-workers and citizens while shaking down the local meth dealers for payoffs.

Things make sense up to there but then some violent Asian guys show up from nowhere and start horning into the meth market. The Asians are pressuring the local dealers to work under them instead of Lafitte. The Asians stupidly up the local violence level by killing those who do not comply

The Asians came to MN from Detroit when Lafitte’s ex-beat partner sends them over. Ex-Beat Partner figures Lafitte will be game to sharing the control as long as the money is right. Lafitte says no and the Asians continue killing off the competition.

Turns out the Asians are there to finance a terror ring based in Detroit. Lafitte and Sheriff Brother-In-Law and Lafitte's Sort-Of-Girlfriend Drew head over to Detroit to work up the local terror chain and try to get them to leave MN in exchange for Lafitte and Friends staying quiet.

Of course Smith does a better job at telling the story than I do. I wonder if Smith had a draft set in chronological order. Slipping back in forth from flashback to current time can be really effective but the way he set-up the story confused me. I am easily confused but still…


  • Lafitte’s and the reader’s perception of Lafitte's brother in law changes from do-gooder to do-whatever-needs-to-be-doner. It was neat to see that change but I wish more time was spent on him.
  • Drew, the Sort-Of Girlfriend, was not all that fleshed out.
  • The bad guys had lots of nasty potential – they’re terrorists for fucks sake - but I just wasn't feeling it.
  • Smith's injection of reality over the characters actions and possible repercussions was neat. Lafitte realistically worries about going to prison, keeping a paycheck alive to send money to his children in MS, not dragging other people into his mess.

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