The Edgar Award winning thriller The Bottoms is classic American storytelling in its truest, darkest, and more affecting formwith echoes of William Faulkner and Harper Lee.
Its 1933 in East Texas and the Depression lingers in the air like a slow moving storm. When a young Harry Collins and his little sister stumble across the body of a black woman who has been savagely mutilated and left to die in the bottoms of the Sabine River, their small town is instantly charged with tension. When a second body turns up, this time of a white woman, there is little Harry can do from stopping his Klan neighbors from lynching an innocent black man. Together with his younger sister, Harry sets out to discover who the real killer is, and to do so they will search for a truth that resides far deeper than any river or skin color.
In his latest suspense thriller, prolific yarn-spinner Lansdale, best known for his offbeat series featuring the mismatched East Texas Sherlocks Hap Collins and Leonard Pine (Bad Chili), presents a different voice in a coming-of-age story set in the early years of the Great Depression. Lansdale's 80-something protagonist, Harry Crane, looks back to the day in 1933 when he was 13 and, with his nine-year-old sister, Tom (Thomasina), he found the mutilated corpse of a black prostitute bound to a tree with barbed wire near their home along the hardscrabble bottomlands of the Sabine River. The discovery presents their father, Jacob Crane--a farmer and barber eking out a living as the town constable--with a nightmarish investigation. News travels slowly in the days before television, but Jacob learns from the black doctor who performs the makeshift autopsy that two other mutilated bodies have been found over the last 18 months. Because the victims are black and "harlots," no one in the county much cares. But when the body of a white prostitute is discovered, a rabid mob lynches Moses--a black man who has been something of a surrogate father to Jacob--despite Jacob and Harry's heroic efforts to save him. Predictably, another body is soon discovered. Lansdale is best when recreating the East Texas dialogue and setting. Readers will not have to work hard to unearth comparisons to characters in To Kill a Mockingbird, but gruesome details of the murders keep the novel from being labeled a period piece. Folksy and bittersweet, though rather rough-hewn and uneven, Lansdale's novel treats themes still sadly pertinent today.
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The Bottoms is one of those rare books that you don't want to end. Fantastic from beginning to end.
Winner of the Best Mystery Edgar Awards 2000
Not your average mystery by any stretch of the imagination but by far the most satisfying read the year it came out "THE BOTTOMS" finds Joe R. Lansdale at the top of his game. Coming of age story with some flashes of folklore back woods, depression era mystery keeps the reader in suspense through out and as I stated right off, not your average Joe's tale from a time when racism, poverty and hard living were common and good decent people were few and far between. This is a master story told through the eyes of and old man, recalling in such detail his early pre teen years and a time that made hime grow up very quickly, that time featuring a young boy dealing with the local gruesome murders happening in his community and his dad, trying to figure it all out, a fresh& daring literary novel from one of the best writing today, THE BOTTOMS is a tale you won't soon forget and a writer with very few peers.