I don't have a "Westerns" shelf on Goodreads, and that's because I don't normally read westerns. I watch them, no problem; but for some reason, reading a western has only rarely ever appealed.
Then I saw Tim Curran had written a western and I thought: "Why the hell not?"
And at this juncture, I'd just like to give myself a little pat on the back. Because Grim Riders is pretty damn good.
I went in knowing very little, and I believe Grim Riders is one of those books that the average reader will appreciate more knowing as little as possible. So I'll sum it up in one single sentence: Norman Patridge, a hard-ass if ever there was one, has busted out of prison and is trying to find the money he left with his wife before she and their house burnt to the ground - even if all manner of people (including the law) are going to get in his way ...
There. Sound western-y enough? Well, it is. It hits all the major tropes of the genre, and then some, but still with Curran's particular sensibilities woven throughout. On the less good side are the passages of overly verbose scenery setting, but on the much better end of the scale are the extremely gory details of the carnage bullets wreak, as well as some nasty scenes describing what those with the taste for human flesh do to their victims. Best of all, Curran paints a picture of a world where there are very few genuinely good people. Most are varying shades of gray, and for that alone, this is a read that stands apart from the (relatively few) other westerns I've waded through.
And if in the end, the various storylines don't intersect quite as spectacularly as I was hoping, this can totally be forgiven, because Grim Riders is a captivating dark western from a man who normally deals with tentacles, spiders, ventriloquist dolls and death in many forms. If this is a typical example of what to expect when Curran plays outside his usual sandbox, here's to him spreading his wings a little more often.
4 Dinner Plate Sized Holes in a Man's Chest for Grim Riders.