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Nov 30, 2011
At first glance, Percival Everett's Assumption is a pitch-perfect mystery novel about a deputy sheriff in a remote New Mexico town. When he's not checking in with his boss, or talking about fly-fishing with his Native American colleague, or helping his mom install a new air conditioner, Ogden Walker gets caught up in the weirdest cases. An old woman shoots through her front door at an intruder, only to wind up dead after Ogden confiscates her gun. An Irish woman comes looking for her "lost" American cousin, setting off a string of murders that sends Ogden up to Denver looking for clues. A fish and game warden is shot in cold blood, and nobody can find any trace of the poacher Ogden saw him arresting...
But just because Everett can do a dead-on impression of the regional mystery--the moody investigator who fits perfectly into the landscape, the cheerfully casual relationships with the secondary characters, and all the other bells and whistles--doesn't mean he's playing by all the rules. Other novelists might make greater hay out of Ogden's biracial heritage or his previous career in the military police, but here they're little more than data points, hovering in the background. And that's what moves Assumption into Character Approved territory: You think you know things about Ogden, and the killers he's pursuing, but Everett will chip away at every one of your assumptions until, in the very last pages, you're in an entirely different, much more unsettling story. Imagine sitting down with a Tony Hillerman novel and suddenly finding yourself in a Jim Thompson nightmare, but it's so compelling that you can't turn away. That's the ride Percival Everett takes readers on, and the one disappointment may be that there's absolutely no chance for a sequel.
[Image: Graywolf Press]