Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Truck Comes On Thursday by Sue Hardesty

Publisher:         L-Book

It's never a good thing when the cover of a book misleads the reader as to what is inside.  Even a good story can be lost if the reader is focused on something else.  The Truck Comes on Thursday says on the cover that it is a mystery, but fans of that genre may dispute that fact.

After the woman who was both her police and personal partner was accidently shot by another policeman in Los Angeles, Loni Wagner returned to her small hometown in Arizona and joined the highway patrol.  Loni has come back to a town she hates to try and heal from her loss and to take care of her elderly grandparents.  She is trapped between the cultures of the modern world and the Indian traditions that her grandparents prefer to follow. As Loni tries to adjust to this new life, she is also trying to deal with cases involving a plane crash, coyotes smuggling people across the border and drugs that are killing people.  The need to solve these cases is enhanced by the fact that someone keeps trying to kill her.

The problem with this book is that the "mystery" is not at the heart of it.  Sections about the different crimes spring up at irregular intervals and sometimes seem to be afterthoughts to what is actually going on in the book.  The criminal sections are often rough, flow poorly and are at times confusing.  They disrupt the pace of the book and Loni seems to make leaps to information that isn't supported by what has been told in the story.  There are also long sections from a diary written by Loni's ancestor that don't seem to make much contribution to the story at all.  Why this technique was included is puzzling because the information included doesn't add to the narration.

At the heart of this book is a more interesting story than the crimes that are committed.  There is a great deal of knowledge about the ritual stories told by Indians, how they perceive relationships differently and their vision of how people should interact with the natural world.  When Loni is listening to her grandparents talk about their traditions or explain Indian attitudes, the book is at its best.  Hardesty also obviously knows the geography and culture of the area well enough to make her descriptions very vivid and to give insight into some of the problems that exist along the US-Mexico border.  At times the reader may feel that what Hardesty really wanted to write was the story of that area, with an emphasis on how the Indians have been mistreated and survived.  It is clear that she feels a great injustice has been done and that should have been explored more.  That stronger story is diluted by the episodes that are thrown in about the crimes. 

Because The Truck Comes on Thursday is referred to as a mystery, the reader may be misled and miss the better story.  Mystery fans often complain that books are placed in that genre, but the mystery is a thin conveyance for romance or something else.  That may be the reaction to this one.  If the book is approached as being full of interesting tidbits about Indian culture and experiences, plus a glimpse of life in the US Southwest, it's much more satisfying.  Hardesty could have left out the criminal parts and made a better story because it would have had a totally different and sharper focus.

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