BITTERROOT by James Lee Burke
Simon & Schuster, 2001
Billy Bob Holland, onetime Texas Ranger visits his old friend Doc Voss in Bitterroot, Montana. The countryside is beautiful, but what is going on is not. Voss has picked up a variety of enemies including a company that wants to mine the mountains, a hate-group leader, and a pack of bikers. When Voss pushes too hard, his daughter is raped and Voss is accused of murdering the suspected rapist.
Billy Bob, the first person narrator of the bulk of the story, agrees to defend his friend, but he questions Voss's innocence. Voss certainly had plenty of motivation and Billy Bob has seen him in deadly action. Still, the Montana countryside is littered with suspects and with people who know too much and aren't telling what they know.
In BITTERROOT, author James Lee Burke depicts the battle between good and evil as a battle between the truly bad and those with questionable morality. Both Voss and Billy Bob bring violence to everything they touch. Innocence is either destroyed (as with Voss's daughter), or helpless (as with Billy Bob's son). Only those touched by darkness are able to confront the truly evil.
Burke's writing is so strong and vivid that this morally complex message becomes fascinating reading. His descriptions make the Montana countryside come alive. Wyatt Dixon, rodeo clown and major sociopath, makes a fascinating and truly evil character. BITTERROOT will stick in your mind and twist until you are forced to think about some of the questions that Burke asks. You may not like the answers Burke gives, but they're certainly hard to deny
Purchase BITTERROOT from Amazon.com (hardback).