Journeying up the Missouri River in 1830, the wealthy Berrybenders encounter the challenges of the untamed American West and a variety of people, including Native Americans, pioneers, and explorers, before Tasmin Berrybender falls in love with frontiersman and part-time preacher Jim Snow. 200,000 first printing.
Larry McMurtry's Sin Killer is a wildly entertaining ride through the untamed Great Plains. The first installment of a proposed tetralogy, The Berrybender Narratives, Sin Killer follows the adventures of the Berrybenders, a large, noble English family traveling the Missouri River in 1832. This deeply self-absorbed and spoiled family leaves England for the unknown of the American West, based solely on a "whim" and Lord Berrybender's desire to "shoot different animals from those he shot at home." The novel joins the family as they make their way toward Yellowstone aboard a luxury steamer, accompanied by a motley assemblage of servants, guides, and natives. Along the way, this "floating Europe" and its bickering, stubborn passengers encounter constant adversity, including warring natives, hellacious weather, accidental deaths, and kidnappings.
Thanks largely to Sin Killer's gallery of colorful personalities, McMurtry keeps most of the action firmly in the realm of fish-out-of-water farce. One such character is the independent and opinionated eldest daughter Tasmin, who, frustrated by her family's conventions, escapes the steamer, whereupon she meets and falls in love with Jim Snow, a.k.a. Sin Killer. Snow, an Indian killer raised by natives, is a stoical, God-fearing man who won't tolerate blasphemy. With prose that flows as naturally as the Missouri, McMurtry weaves together a large cast and vast setting into a thoroughly exciting, hilarious adventure novel. Though Sin Killer focuses on a love story and contains plenty of realistic violence, McMurtry's efficient voice and matter-of-fact perspective leaves little room for tragedy or sentimentality, instead emphasizing high comedy. This is wonderful storytelling from a narrator in perfect agreement with his subject. Sin Killer should please McMurtry's many fans, who now have much to look forward to. --Ross Doll
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