The Marauders by Tom Cooper

What do you do when a book can make you sympathetic to a drug addicted man who neglects his estranged wife and daughter and hunts for treasure when he should be working? You love it.

To quote Esquire Tom Cooper’s The Marauders is “more fun that a book about the aftermath of an ecological disaster has any right to be”.

Set in post-Katrina, post-BP oil spill Louisiana, the debut novel features a set of loathsome characters, some of whom you route for and some of whom you wish would drown in the swamp. The Toup brothers are part of the latter category. The identical twins run a successful island pot growing business, but they don’t like anyone to get too close. If someone does, they may put an alligator in his bedroom. This is what they do to Lindquist, who has zero interest in their drug empire and instead is hunting the long lost treasure of Jean Lafitte. His reluctant helper is 17 year old, prematurely grey Wes, who lost his mother in Hurricane Katrina. The two men who are, in fact, interested in the Toup twins’ island are a pair of misfit community service workers who want to make some easy money. And rounding out the sad bunch is a nihilistic insurance representative trying to get the residents to take a sub-par settlement check so they won’t sue. He hates his life.

“After midnight and the black-green swamp was swollen and dripping moonstruck jewels of dew trembling on the leaves. The Toup twins came across a fallen oak, its trunk worm-bored and teeming with larvae. The log was too large to leap so they climbed on top, boots crackling in the rotten wood, and then they hopped down to the other side.

Now they came upon a spider web as big as a shrimping trawl, stretched between the tumorous trunks of two alders. A hand-sized spider like a blown-glass objet d’art lazed in the middle, motionless in the beams of their flashlights.”

Quite simply, this is a good book. The characters, the plot, and the humor were incredibly charming, even when they weren’t – if that makes any sense. It probably doesn’t, but I’ll go with it. The southern atmosphere seemed spot on (I say seemed only because I’ve never lived in New Orleans) and the prose reads effortlessly. This one is for fans of Elmore Leonard, Joe R. Lansdale, and Richard Russo or almost southern gothic with an almost happy ending.

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