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Sin Killer (2002)

by Larry McMurtry

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1,0551519,839 (3.45)14
"It is 1830, and the Berrybender family, rich, aristocratic, English, and fiercely out of place, is on its way up the Missouri River to see the American West as it begins to open up." "Accompanied by a large and varied collection of retainers, Lord and Lady Berrybender have abandoned their palatial home in England to explore the frontier and to broaden the horizons of their children, who include Tasmin, a budding young woman of grit, beauty, and determination, her vivacious and difficult sister, and her brother....… (more)
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This novel chronicles the disastrous adventures of an English noble family as they sail up the Missouri River in search of buffalo for the aristocratic Lord Albany Berrybender to shoot. As is apparently typical of McMurtry novels is the dark humour which this one is full of it.Examples: Lord Berrybender accidentally shoots toes off his own foot but blames his gun boy.. His ignorance of everything leads to many unnecessary deaths of his family members as well as his staff. The descriptions of the Lord and his staff hunting in a windy snow storm where the temperature drops below 60 degrees is vividly described to the point where I felt cold.

Once I started, I found it difficult to put down. Recommended.

McMurtry's dedication for this book is a thank you to the second hand book sellers of the Western world who have helped him acquire an education. ( )
  lamour | Apr 26, 2024 |
I have several family members that are big Larry McMurtry fans. Even though I've seen several of his movies that have transpired from his books, I have never read one of his novels. "Sin Killer" was written 22 years ago and is the first in the Berrybender narratives series. The novel was very well thought out. The characters were engaging and interesting and the plot was full of twists and turns. The setting was so well described that I felt that I had actually visited 1830's American West, along the Missouri River. The Berrybenders are a family that are rich, aristocratic, and English. They find themselves out of place in the American West but continue their travels through the various hardships that they encounter throughout their travels. If you have not read this older novel and enjoy westerns, this may be the novel for you! Highly recommend. I'm looking forward to reading the additional novels in this series. ( )
  AndreaHelena | Jan 21, 2024 |
An odd and hectic piece – a sort of vaudeville Western. Sin Killer, at first, seems like a mistake; the premise of a family of aristocratic Brits (the wackily-named Berrybenders) raising hell on the American frontier in the year of our Lord 1832 is a joke that threatens to tire before it's even begun. The writing style is more affected than author Larry McMurtry's usual moreish prose (though the storytelling ability is still there), and there is an unremitting onslaught of boorish and entitled behaviour from the aristos, along with bursts of bawdy humour and vomit and erections. It can be disconcerting to switch from this sort of content to the book's incidents of rape, violence and elemental hardship. And any attempt by the reader to discern a literary motive to McMurtry's novel – namely the contrast between Old World and New, settled and unsettled (pg. 36) – quickly leads them to throw up their hands. The Berrybenders left England on a "whim" (pg. 24); and "what the passengers meant to do in such wild country was a puzzle" (pg. 94).

Fortunately, once you do throw up your hands in defeat the book becomes a bit more palatable. McMurtry knows his genre, and despite the outlandish goings-on, his West always comes across as authentic. Those boorish and scatter-brained characters begin to develop a bit – it helps that a goodly few get killed off – and the book begins to settle. Those hectic "alarums" which are "merely the stuff of day-to-day life, when the Berrybenders are assembled" (pg. 294) become less grating, and the parameters of the story begin to become more defined. A shame, then, that it's at this point the book ends without much sense of occasion: Sin Killer is most definitely Part One of an ongoing story than a book that can stand on its own two feet. Once you accept this isn't going to be your typical Western – not even your typical McMurtry Western – its own charm emerges, even if it remains a rather shallow charm. Some of the characters may even grow on you, which when combined with the general ease and breeziness of the read, makes picking up the second book a prospect. ( )
  MikeFutcher | May 31, 2022 |
Oh lor', when the literary blurbs, and this has a lot of literary blurbs, tell you what an hilarious piece of literature you are about to read, then seriously consider ripping out those pages and pages of literary blurbs and making paper aeroplanes out of them and sending them flying to Antarctica. Sin Killer is funny, make no mistake, but, as is often the case with certain types of literary comedy, it's the sort of humour that involves somewhat grotesque characters slipping on banana peels and injuring themselves horribly and dying a long slow painful death crying pitifully for their mothers so that you come to hate yourself for ever having laughed at them in the first place.

Death stalks the American West of Larry McMurtry in many and varied forms, from sheer accident to Indians, slavers, weather and geography, plucking at the fringes of the party of the appalling Lord Berrybender, over from England to shoot lots of things, drinking claret and pleasuring himself on his mistress and either neglecting appallingly or verbally abusing his varied offspring. Elder daughter, Tasmin, spirited and spoiled, has a chance encounter on the banks of the Missouri Rover with the fierce but taciturn young trapper Sin Killer, leading to a tempestuous union where physical desire overmatches any sense of personal compatibility. As the Berrybenders and entourage voyage up the river, Tasmin and Sin Killer's relationship is the centrepiece around which swirls comings and goings, conflicts and fights, blunders and captures, torments and murders; and you know by the time you get to the end that there must be more books to come because, somehow, there are still plenty of characters left to kill.

It is brilliant, though. Nobody demytholigises the West like McMurtry, and this comic tragedy of the aristocracy of old Europe clashing with the democratic chaos of the Western Frontier, an advance party of the civilised despoilation of the great wilderness, leaves no myth standing. Arguably, of course, he replaces it with potentially enduring myths of his own, but whether these myths are closer to the truth, as if such a thing were knowable, is hard to say. Great to read, though. ( )
  Nigel_Quinlan | Oct 21, 2015 |
First in the Berrybender series of four books about an aristocratic family that adventures into the new American West in 1832. Some lively characters, and as befitting Mr. McMurtry, quite a few of them end up dead. A few historical figures also pass through the pages. ( )
  addunn3 | Feb 5, 2014 |
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I ate between battles, I slept among murderers, I was
careless in loving and I looked upon mature without pa-
tience. Thus the time passed which was given me on
earth.

------BRECHT--------
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In the darkness beyond the great Missouri's shore at last lay the West, toward which Tasmin and her family, the numerous Berrybenders, had so long been tending.
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"It is 1830, and the Berrybender family, rich, aristocratic, English, and fiercely out of place, is on its way up the Missouri River to see the American West as it begins to open up." "Accompanied by a large and varied collection of retainers, Lord and Lady Berrybender have abandoned their palatial home in England to explore the frontier and to broaden the horizons of their children, who include Tasmin, a budding young woman of grit, beauty, and determination, her vivacious and difficult sister, and her brother....

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