The Outcasts by Kathleen Kent (Little, Brown, Sept. 24th)-When we first meet Lucinda “Lucy” Carter, it’s the late1800’s and she’s making her escape from a Texas brothel with more than a few dollars of the madam’s stash in tow and an invitation to teach in Middle Bayou, Louisiana. She’s got more to do in Middle Bayou than just teach, though. In fact, a man is supposed to meet her there and he’s got buried treasure on his mind, and plans to use Lucinda to get it. Meanwhile, young Nate Cannon, a Texas cop, is hunting for a killer of women, men, and children by the name of McGill, and on the way, he meets up with two other lawmen, Dr. Tom and Deerling. Deerling is a rather ruthless sort and is unapologetic about methods that Nate may not agree with. Dr. Tom has a personal stake in capturing McGill, but I’ll let you discover what that is on your own. Needless to say, chasing the cunning McGill isn’t easy and is fraught with danger, some of which has nothing to do with their fugitive. Nate finds himself growing attached to these two cops that have been partners for the better part of 20 years, and although he longs to be back home with his wife and young daughter, his experiences with these men, and what he learns from them, is transformational.
The narrative is divided between Nate’s journey and Lucinda’s, and I fell in love with them both, but for different reasons. On the outside, Lucinda exudes confidence and is even somewhat of a prodigy in math, but on the inside, she is so damaged and so broken that your heart will go out to her. Yes, she’s in league with some not so nice people. Yes, she uses others in order to survive, sometimes with terrible consequences. But, she is so complex, and at times so vulnerable, and I desperately wanted to see a light at the end of the tunnel for her. As The Outcast moves toward its conclusion, I began to feel a sense of inevitability, and also a very palpable sense of dread. I knew that things were going to be explosive, and in the end, they were, but the author threw some curveballs in there that I didn’t expect. The journey is the key here, and what a journey! Nate is so goodhearted, with a very strong sense of justice, and he finds himself challenged at nearly every turn, especially by the irascible Deerling, but it’s his relationship with Dr. Tom that’s the big draw here. From the dusty hills of Texas to the very wild and steamy Gulf Coast, The Outcasts is unforgettable, and if you have a love for Westerns, you’re especially in for a treat, although this will appeal to thriller fans and for readers that are just looking for a damn good story. I couldn’t put this one down, and it’s left me scrambling to get my hands on everything Kathleen Kent has written.