Read as part of CBR11 Bingo: summer read.
I wasted too much of my life not reading Ross Thomas novels. I’ve been going through them the last two years and he’s become one of my all-time favorite writers. The “Elmore Leonard of politics” label is quite apt and The Fourth Durango, a tale packed with great characters and a fun premise, is one of the reasons why.
The book itself is part mystery, part thinking person’s “thriller” and part excuse to get a bunch of people in a small town, raise the stakes, and have ’em bullcrap and/or screw each other, which is what Thomas is so good at. This was written near his life, yet he still had what made him great. The dialogue is snappy without being cliche. The plot is layered without being too complex. The resolution is predictable yet fun. Everyone just wants to drink, have sex and a good time. What’s wrong with that?
And most importantly, these books don’t overstay their welcome. You don’t walk away thinking heavy thoughts or grappling with difficult fictional circumstances that the characters dealt with. In other words, it’s escapism but it’s quality escapism.
As I often do in reviews of Thomas novels, I will once again lament why no one writes smart political thrillers like this anymore. Is it really that hard? You don’t need to be partisan or didactic. You just need to be clever and witty. It’s probably gauche to do so in the age of Trump but in different circumstances, politics can be an entertaining subject if you keep it relatively low stakes.