Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Marauders by Tom Cooper

I'm such a book hungry idiot sometimes, really.  (Come on, Megan, tell it like it is.  Don't hold back now, really.)  Sometimes books come in the mail, and I open them, and I'm like, "Did I request this?  Was I in a fugue state at the time?  Could I not keep my fingers from filling in a form with my address?"  I can't be the only one who has this feeling from time to time, can I?  So, since I'm being all "full disclosure" here, I'll freely admit that when I opened up my ARC of The Marauders, I was kind of like.....what have I done?  On second look, this sounds like a weird mix of Elmore Leonard and Carl Hiaasen, two authors whose work I'm decidedly not interested in, so, really, what is it doing at my house?

Okay, maybe the blurb from Stephen King helped, even though I recognize the blurb business for the BS it can tend to be.  Maybe it was the Louisiana Bayou setting.  I've always been irrationally fascinated by the bayou for some reason, despite never having been there (or even close to there).  Or, you know, maybe I just let the "Gimme books!" brain cloud obscure my thinking mind.  I swear I keep at bay most some of the time!  Regardless, The Marauders was at my house, and though I feared I wouldn't like it much at all, I decided I'd give it its 50 page chance and move on with my life.  Suffice it to say, I was an idiot for thinking I wouldn't like this book because I really, really did.

The Marauders sets it readers down in the backwater bayou town of Jeanette, LA in the wake of the duel tragedies of Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill.  The town lives off of its shrimping industry, but the shrimp are too small and hard to find, not to mention likely tainted by the oil washing up on Jeanette's shores.  Jeanette, at first glimpse, is home to a pack of the most unlikeable characters you're likely to find in fiction.  First, there are the twin Toup brothers, who beat back the steadily encroaching poverty with a bumper crop of marijuana they're growing on a hidden bayou island.  Then there is Gus Lindquist, a one-armed especially down on his luck shrimper with a painkiller addiction who is certain that if he just tries long and hard enough he'll find the lost treasure of the pirate Jean Lafitte.  Then there's young Wes Trench, whose family has seen tragedy and whose relationship with his shrimp boat captain father is desperately on the rocks.  There's Cosgrove and Hanson, too, a couple of petty criminals on the hunt for a treasure of their own.  Last but not least is Brady Grimes, a guy who fled his Jeanette home at the first opportunity only to find himself returned to his hometown to wheedle the locals into accepting paltry settlements from BP for their troubles.

The Marauders is a fairly fast paced tale of a crowd of characters whose paths cross at the most inopportune moments.  Black humor litters Cooper's story of the foibles of hapless Lindquist, as he desperately hunts the treasure that will turn his fortune around but ends up tangled in the Toup brothers' web instead.  Cosgrove gets into a bar fight after burying his father that spins his life off in an unexpected direction.  Wes Trench and his father part ways after a squabble over ice that is the culmination of months of quiet hostility after the death of Wes's mother, and all of the sudden Wes is thrust into nutty Lindquist's orbit that is headed straight for danger.  Brady Grimes, in all his smooth talking, mildly conflicted glory ties the community together with his decidedly unwelcome visits, until even he is taken down a peg by the struggles of his old hometown.

I say that the characters are unlikeable at first glimpse, because they don't all stay that way.  Sure, maybe the marijauna farming Toup brothers don't have a ton of redeeming qualities.  However, by the time readers have spent a couple hundred pages in their presence, most of Cooper's other characters emerge with a few more dimensions than you might expect, and then you, like me, might realize that you're not reading just a ridiculous crime caper about a bunch of greedy fools so much as you are reading a terribly honest and, at last gasp, affecting story of a proud, stubborn, if sometimes desperate, Cajun community that gets back up again as many times as it gets knocked down. The Marauders is the last book that I would have expected to get an emotional reaction out of me as it wound down into its final pages, but let me assure you, somehow it did, and for that reason alone, you can expect The Marauders to be a book that is much more than meets the eye.

(Thanks to Crown publishing for providing me with a copy via Shelf Awareness, even though I'm a total dolt.  See, it worked out in the end, right?)


  1. I've had that experience too. Given my rule to only accept books for review I really really want to read and would probably buy anyway, it can come as a surprise when suddenly I receive a book and don't remember that early enthusiasm I had to want to read it.

    This does sound like something I would like from your description of it. The setting appeals to me as well, including the Cajun community you describe in your review.

  2. You make this sound very entertaining Megan. I have the eGalley, so I'll make a point to try it. Thanks for making me LOL

  3. Oh, Megan, you make me laugh. So hard. Not AT you, of course, it's totally WITH you ...

    I also happen to adore Louisiana bayou settings, so I tend to accept any book that fits the bill. This one does sound good, though. I'll have to check it out. Thanks for the heads-up!