I’m rating The Outcasts a four because it is nicely written, interesting enough to follow until the end, the characters are well defined and the story winds itself into a tight, little bow at the end. There are no egregious fictional flaws and it’s far from boring, but with all that said, I also didn’t find it overly exciting.
The Outcasts is set in 1870s on the Gulf Coast. Based on the cover, title and time period, you might be inclined to think western and it is, but not poorly done or overly stereotypical. The story follows a Lucinda Carter, plagued by epileptic fits, through her exit from a whore house (with the madam’s savings), a love affair (with a serial killer), the search for buried treasure (real or fake?) and up to her final moments facing the consequences of her involvement with a wanted man. The book’s summary boasts that Lucinda is “a woman determined to make a new life for herself in the old west.” For me, Lucinda remained the same woman from beginning to end. While she was very determined and even quite clever, I don’t feel like she was changed by any of the events. I felt like the real story is the story that is woven throughout about Nate Cannon. Cannon is a junior officer and one of three lawmen hot on the trail of the killer, McGill. It’s a sort of coming of age story for Nate and it’s exciting to see how he adapts and changes to all that he encounters and experiences. The two other lawmen, Deerling and Dr.Tom, it turns out have personal reasons, as well as lawful ones for wanting to catch the killer. Both Deerling and Dr. Tom have been searching for the killer for some time, when Nate joins them to continue the search.
The setting is grounded enough where you feel in the correct time and space, but not overly contrived (in a saloon with swinging doors, they challenge each other to a pistol duel). There are guns and mysteries, plot twists and memorable characters that keep you reading through the book. All in all, it’s a good read, but it wasn’t spectacular by any stretch.
Part-time fiction writer, Alisha Churbe lives in Portland, Oregon. In the rare instances when you can pry her away from books, Alisha can be found travelling in foreign countries, cooking, or hiking with her husband Michael and dog Euro.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Little, Brown and Company. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.