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Assumption by Percival Everett

Assumption (2011)

by Percival Everett

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This is one of those books people love or hate and I’m still on the fence about it. It’s a very frustrating novel, which may not even be the right word for it; it’s to disconnected for that. The severe disruption between narratives threw me and kept me off balance, which may have been the point.


Given the title, I should have wondered about the straight up detective story which is how this starts out, but it took me a while to be suspicious of Ogden. Somewhere in the middle vignette though, the body count escalates and it’s pretty clear that Ogden is our killer. IDs are not checked, procedure is not followed, too much leeway is allowed; all of it adds up to more than an unreliable narrator; no, it’s all the way to unreliable author. See, as clever as it is I wonder if it became so because Everett didn’t know how to tie his killings together. So when Bucky shows up in the nick of time in the final scenes, it’s not surprising since he has done throughout the whole book; too bad he just wasn’t cop enough to put an end to it sooner. It is well written, and I liked the hate group being named The Great White Hope. What I didn’t like was how casually the author makes being female an insult. In the middle of a book about the wrongness of racism the misogyny was sadly ironic. ( )
  Bookmarque | Mar 21, 2016 |
Sifting through new authors to try, I came across a reference to Percival Everett, describing him as gritty, in the vein of Cormac McCarthy, with an Elmore Leonard twist in his realistic crime fiction. He was billed as one of the best recent authors on the market. I picked up [Assumption] because he set that set of stories in the high desert of New Mexico, a milieu with which I am familiar.

[Assumption] is three stories – novellas – roughly following the same narrator, Plata County Sheriff Deputy Ogden Walker. He is faced with some unusual crimes in the sleepy and eccentric area, ones that would get even a big city detective. For one, he has to work through a locked room mystery – the murder of a curmudgeonly old lady whom he visits just minutes before her demise. Even though he’s sitting and watching her house when the murder is committed, there is no sign of her body or a killer when he goes in her back door just a few minutes later. The second mystery is a missing person case – a skip-trace, in the parlance. And finally, the book ends with a murdered Fish and Wildlife officer.

Two problems. First, Everett chose the lonely New Mexico high desert to set his stories. There’s a lot of eccentricity up there – think a 1960’s Haight Ashbury flowerchild mating with Doc Holiday. Dickens would have been jealous of the character material. And the landscape is breathtaking. But Everett barely succeeds with a brief touch and go, never really giving the place or the people time to breath. There are paragraphs where it feels like he’s going to settle in, and then he switches to rapid fire dialog that lasts for pages. Secondly, just as you’re getting used to Deputy Walker, he changes the game, drastically. I won’t ruin the reveal, but suffice to say that there is no warning and no set up for what becomes of Walker. I don’t mind a dramatic turn, but give me some warning, any warning, that I’m dealing with a less than trustworthy narrator. The result is that the book ends in a muffled haze, the reader wondering what just happened.

It feels like both problems with the book could have been settled if Everett had decided who he was and what he wanted to do. It’s like he’s trying to strike two different chords on the same saxophone, and there’s not enough fingers or tongue for the feat.

Bottom Line: Not as gritty or as well written as billed, but solid, even if his grasp of the he’s set the stories isn’t particularly deft.

3 bones!!!!! ( )
2 vote blackdogbooks | Feb 14, 2016 |
My fourth Percival Everett novel and all I can think is how different each one of them has been, how surprising, how delightfully snookered by this book I'm feeling right now, in the best way possible. A wonderful read. ( )
  poingu | Jan 23, 2016 |
I really enjoyed this one! I liked the author's style and the mood/pace he set. A bit reminiscent of Jim Thompson at times. His main character, Ogden Walker, is a semi-reluctant sheriff in small town New Mexico. He is short on patter and seems a bit moody. The first 2/3 of the book are two cases he gets involved in. Then the last third takes a sharp turn and the plot does the unexpected! Pretty cool to read and a quick read too! ( )
  Stahl-Ricco | Jan 23, 2016 |
Ogden Walker is a deputy sheriff in Plata, the small desert community in New Mexico where he grew up. He’s on the likable side of stoic, and stumbles through his job as best he can with the promise of fly fishing on the weekends. But there’s trouble in Plata, in the form of three crimes, possible interconnected, that spiral rapidly out of control toward the novel’s startling conclusion.
Everett has a wonderfully terse style: he says as much by omission as he does with his brisk prose. This is a fine piece of writing for fans of both literary fiction and police procedurals, and you’ll be desperate to talk about it once it has revealed its secrets. ( )
2 vote circumspice | Feb 18, 2014 |
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Dusk came on and the pinacate bugs were out of their holes and trudging along the wash.
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"Ogden Walker, deputy sheriff of a small New Mexico town, is on the trail of an old woman's murderer.  But at the crime scene, his are the only footprints leading up to and away from her door.  Something is amiss, and even his mother knows it.  As other cases pile up, Ogden gives chase, pursuing flimsy leads for even flimsier reasons.  Ogden't hunt leads him from the seamier side of Denver to a hippie commune as he seeks the puzzling solution.  [...]A wild ride to the heart of a baffling mystery, Assumption is a literary thriller like no other."
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"In the sleepy New Mexico backwater of Plata, Deputy Sheriff Ogden Walker spends his time humoring his portly boss, chasing vandals, and fly-fishing. But when a woman is murdered under strange circumstances, his life takes a turn for the worse. Over three disturbing cases, Walker scours the seedy underbelly of Denver, a ragtag hippie commune, and a fish hatchery. He is on the search for solutions to the questions he is foolish enough to ask. The answers, when they do come, are not the ones anyone expected"-- Cover verso.… (more)

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