Even for those, myself included, who maintain there is no better writer of writer of contemporary crime fiction than Daniel Woodrell, Winter’s Bone exceeds expectations. From the very first sentence- “Ree Dolly stood at break of day on her cold front steps and smelled coming flurries and saw meat.”- you know you’re in for something special. With a poetic and hard-edged prose style, Woodrell’s stories are the stuff from which nightmares are made. Perhaps the quality of the writing derives from the fact Woodrell has only published seven novels over the last twenty years, resulting in writing that remains fresh and interesting, both for reader as well as writer. Even better than the excellent Tomato Red and The Death of Sweet Mister, and just as unrelenting as Woe to Live On, Winter’s Bone follows Ree, who, at sixteen, must look after her two younger brothers and a demented mother in the Ozark hills. During a snowbound winter, Ree’s father, a local crank manufacturer, puts up the family home for bail. Because failure to appear in court will result in making the family homeless, Ree has no choice but to find her father. This sets off a local feud in a region where practically everyone is related; violence, paranoia and secrecy are rife; and everybody exists outside the law. But Ree is made from pretty tough stuff. With its narrative moving, like a winter storm, from dark to darker, Winter’s Bone is the best crime novel I’ve read for ages.
London-based journalist and author of Pulp Culture: Hardboiled Fiction and the Cold War; Neon Noir: Contemporary American Crime Fiction; and Heartbreak and Vine: The Fate of Hardboiled Writers in Hollywood.