Kent's newest historical novel takes place in post–Civil War Texas. For
the South, especially, it was a time of starting over and adjusting to a
new world and changed fortunes. Families mourned their losses, and men
found ways to cope with nightmares and missing limbs.
In the late 1800s Texas was a crossroads of diverse cultures, including American Indians, Mexicans, freed slaves, and ex-plantation owners. Despite the Texas Rangers and local sheriffs, the inevitable conflicts among these peoples were usually solved by a knife or gunfire. In The Outcasts, Kathleen Kent brings together three lawmen, a couple of killers, and one prostitute, whose lives become tangled in complicated ways.
- The plot: Lucinda is a prostitute who has pinned her hopes on William McGill, a brutal killer who can be charming when it suits him. Nate, a brand-new state police officer is ordered to help two veteran rangers track down McGill and bring him to justice.
- The good: Kent's abilities to capture a setting are showcased in The Outcasts. Whether writing about specific buildings or the vast expanse of the Texan wilderness, her descriptions are vivid and centered me solidly in the story.
- The not as good: Although I found it easy to understand Kent's characters and thought they were consistently portrayed and mostly believable, the three principal individuals were just this side of being stereotypes. Lucinda is smart and has a thirst for knowledge; prostitution is simply her means of survival. Nate is a police office of impeccable ethics. McGill is as cold-hearted a killer as you've ever seen. The characters' back stories give them a few unique traits, but there were no real surprises in their basic personalities.
- The epilogue: I'm not always a fan of the epilogue, but I think it serves a good purpose in The Outcasts. Kent allows us to see a bit into the future but still gives us room for conjecture.
- The audiobook: The unabridged audiobook edition (Hachette Audio; 9 hr, 14 min) was read by Ellen Archer, who did a wonderful job with the action, mood, and descriptions. Although she didn't give every character a distinct voice, I had no problem following the dialogue. The jumps in time and point of view were sometimes a bit jarring in the audio (not Archer's fault), but I was always able to adjust quickly.
Source: Review (print & audio) (see review policy)
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