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The Trackers    by Charles Frazier order for
by Charles Frazier
Order:  USA  Can
Ecco, 2023 (2023)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Charles Frazier, author of Cold Mountain and Thirteen Moons, among many other great reads, now brings fans a Great Depression saga in The Trackers. Its lead, young painter Valentine Welch, is to design and paint a New Deal mural for the Post Office in small-town Dawes, Wyoming. Val wants 'to embody the hinge of time in this place, that moment not far past first contact between the Plains Indians and whites, the point where everything changed except landscape and weather.'

Art lover and ex-WW I sniper John Long has offered to put Val up in a cabin on his nearby ranch. He lives there with his much younger wife Eve, who used to sing in a western swing band. It's soon clear that Long has strong political ambitions and relies heavily on Faro, a 'scary old cowboy' who acts as his fixer. He also puts Eve on show to support those ambitions, which she really dislikes. Readers share Val's adjustment to this new life, both surroundings and people.

Eventually, Eve leaves with a valuable Renoir, and Long presses Val hard to seek her in Seattle, offering a hefty retainer and expenses (he seems mainly concerned about the impact on his political ambitions.) This quest takes Val in search of Eve (and her hobo ex husband) to San Francisco and the Florida swamps - offering readers a fascinating portrayal of the country post-Depression. The author's lyrical descriptions of Val's trials and surroundings pull reader interest at least as much as the mystery of Eve.

Val does ultimately find her - and is soon in over his head. Readers wonder how this will end, especially when Faro catches up with them. It concludes in 1937 when the mural is completed. Highly recommended!

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