No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Friday, February 23, 2018

2018/05: River of Teeth -- Sarah Gailey

Hovering in the doorway was a sleek little stoat of a man, his pencil moustache slicked across the top of his lip like a drunk draped across a chaise longue. [p. 59]
An alternate history set in a late nineteenth-century Louisiana, where the Mississippi has been dammed to form the Harriet -- an area of swampy bayou which is home to many ranchers and many feral hippopotami. For this is an America where the government imported hippos as an alternate meat source, and where, instead of cowboys, there are hippo-wranglers, or hoppers. One such is Winslow Houndstooth, who gathers a team of mavericks for the job of a lifetime -- ridding the Harriet of ferals -- and, incidentally, for revenge on the man who destroyed his ranch and his livelihood.

In other hands this might have been a straightforward, unexceptional historical thriller: but Houndstooth and his associates are a diverse band (a pregnant Latina assassin, a female con artist, a non-binary demolition expert, a British-Korean bisexual, and a Token White Man) and there are enough internecine conflicts to fuel many, many heists. There's also humour, romance, violence and a surprising amount of information (or an amount of surprising information) about hippos. Great fun, fast-paced: it's a novella, and as soon as I'd finished it I bought the sequel, Taste of Marrow. Because yes, cliffhanger ending.

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