The Sunsetter rodeo and fair is the big annual event in the town of Perron - a place long deserted by industry, leaving a ghostly emptiness and a bored, discontented youth. Early in the novel, LeBlanc reflects that “it’s the quietest places that tend to have the most troubled of sounds rumbling away, just out of earshot,” and as the plot unfolds, this is confirmed again and again, for the town, and the central characters Hannah and Dallan.
Alongside the fairground games (often rigged), line dancing, beer tents, and bush parties, there’s a seedier side.
Most are drawn to the Sunsetter through sentiment and pure rote activity. But for many, the Sunsetter is a place to release inhibitions and wander in an inebriated haze. Even the most nostalgic for this jumble of gaudy grinding apparatus and heaps of electrical cables seem to need a cushion of alcohol, weed, and pills to embrace the nostalgia.
Dallan and his friend Brooks plan to “roll” as part of their Sunsetter experience, a decision that ends abruptly in the death of Brooks. When Dallan, an introverted, shy and altogether awkward college student, takes on Nick, who sold them their supply, the tragedy is only compounded.
He and Hannah, Nick’s girlfriend, form an unlikely allegiance as they dig deep into what is happening at the Sunsetter. Of course, as a drug ring is revealed, we too see a gradual exposing layer after layer of corruption in local law enforcement.
Deputy Arnason is a man who should make your blood boil - a police officer who began his “second career” as a supplier of illicit narcotics. Yet there are moments of intense humanity and emotional depth as he reminisces with his ageing mother in the nursing home, for whose fees he started into the criminal activities. He has trouble settling his conscience but still finds this commitment leading him to new levels of violence and moral corruption.
Sunsetter is a raw blend of crime thriller and literary fiction exploring police corruption, the horrors of drugs and the oppressiveness of small town life. I couldn’t help thinking of Demon Copperhead and the opioid crisis depicted while reading Sunsetter. 4⭐️
Thank you to the publisher for this ARC via NetGalley; as always, this is an honest review.
A opioid crisis is raging among young teens and the police are investigating to try to solve the issue. A sharp and clear crime story.
The author gives each of the characters a really clear and credible voice and has a knack for dialogue which makes the book a joy to read.
It was overall a good book and the plot moved along at a decent pace, I didn't really connect with the characters though so I found it difficult to get invested in the story.
Dallan and Hannah can't accept that their friends just died at the Sunsetter Rodeo- they know there's more to the story and set out to find the truth. This is a topical tale of police corruption, the horrors of the drug criss. and small town life. It's a familiar plot but Leblanc has done a good job with the setting and characters. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. A good read.
This is a twisty story with suspense, mystery and some surprises thrown in. An engaging read, fairly fast paced once it gets going.
It's Sunsetter time, an annual rodeo more about people getting drunk and/or high than it is about the rodeo. The story begins with Brooks and Nick dying at the rodeo, the result of the drug fueled atmosphere. The police mark both deaths as accidents, which will not investigated further. However, Dallan and Hannah aren’t convinced and investigate what really happened to their friends and why the police are trying to cover it up. Police corruption just leads to more questions. In seeking justice will they find the truth, or will more people get hurt?
*Special thanks to NetGalley and ECW Press for this e-arc.*
A debut Canadian poet author, Curtis Le Blanc’s Sunsetter is his debut crime mystery novel. It’s the tale of two teenagers, Dallan and Hannah, who attend opening night at the Sunsetter rodeo and struggle with the deaths of their two close friends. The unfolding drama reveals the dying small prairie town of Perron, deserted by industry and replaced with a flourishing drug trade. The local police don’t seem to care and are only interested in protecting their own interests. It’s a gritty slow burn of a story that is difficult to get into. The narrative fails to flow into an enticing story, but rather feels like a series of vignettes that would seem to reflect his poetic works. As a modern noir, it doesn’t work as either literary or crime fiction, and so is a disappointing two star read rating. With thanks to ECW Press and the author for an uncorrected proof copy for review purposes. As always, the opinions herein are totally my own and freely given.
I felt like it took a while for me to get into it. I appreciated the pretty natural realism and writing style, but the plot didn't grab me.
I really enjoyed this book and I look forward to reading more for Curtis' work. I think the character development was great and the plot was really enjoyable.
This book is a fast paced story, with a few twists and turns I didn't see coming. I really liked Dallan and Brooks and Hannah, and the small town carnival vibe was nostalgic and the premise believable. The ending felt a little abrupt, but I think it made sense for the character. Hannah does not show her emotions easily, and the imagery of washing everything down the drain to move on with her life felt right.
I was looking forward to this one. Unfortunately I found this novel difficult to get into. I felt the premise went around and round, so I guess I'm not the target audience. The story was descriptive, albeit a little too much. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC
A raw novel of bad choices, good ol' boy politics, and tragedy, Sunsetter offers a searing look into the crimes that invade spent, small town USA. We follow barely adults Dallan and Hannah as they try to piece together what exactly brought about the deaths of the two people closest to them and watch as their suffering changes them.
Overall, this book just didn't work for me. The modern noir take will probably work for lots of other people, though. The story line is believable-- drugs being cut with fentanyl being sold to young people who don't know any better and the deaths resulting being covered up or ignored by the people of the community. I can see this story playing out in the small town I lived in for two years, a town I'm grateful to have gotten out of.
My problem with this story comes with the pacing. Billed as fast paced, pretty much nothing happens in the first half of the book. Dallan and Hannah are more or less spinning their wheels. The last quarter of the book is good, and the ambiguous ending is fitting, in my opinion, for a story like this. The problem always goes deeper than any one person, and sometimes getting the hell out is the best someone can do.
My other complaint and the thing that really pulled me out of the story was the formatting of the ebook copy. The total like of quotation marks drove me absolutely insane, and they aren't present in the PDF copy either. This book desperately needs formatting and proofing work before its released for purchase.
CW: murder, drug use, police misconduct
I havent' read such a novel before where the rodeo is canadian and the small town attitude is so bleak. fun to read this kind of novel and think about the problems that exist in this fictional place. Just think this is probably a sign that there are places like this. Opiod crisis, corrupt police and tons more to get your reading jaws around.
Curtis LeBlanc’s Sunsetter is the Canadian little brother of Stephen Markley’s Ohio—it’s gritty, it’s rough, and it’s a heck of a slow-burn literary thriller.
Set in a rural Canadian town that had me picturing the boonies of Appalachia or a dying Rust Belt burg, this novel follows several different characters as they interact with one another following two deaths at the Sunsetter rodeo, a carnival that comes to town once a year for a long weekend each May. Readers follow the happenings in the days immediately after the deaths, and it’s a cautious build of anticipation leading up to the sizzling final pages before waning in the end, with the action settling on a quieter, darker, and somewhat ponderous note when all is said and done.
LeBlanc’s story puts us in the middle of the action right away—the two deaths that set into motion the rest of the novel happen in the opening pages, and they are quick, shocking, and seemingly normal, as much as accidental deaths can seem normal. Characters are here one second and gone the next, and the deep, wide chasms that open up in their friends we follow throughout the story, named Dallan and Hannah, are more numbing than jarring. LeBlanc does an excellent job at describing the vague sense of loss after watching your best friend or your soon-to-be live-in boyfriend die of tragic and accidental circumstances, and the lack of melodrama adds a subdued realness to the novel that other stories that deal with the deaths of teenagers or people in their early twenties oftentimes lack or go over-the-top with.
Dallan and Hannah aren’t the only characters we follow though, as we soon learn of a corrupt police force who rules the town with an iron fist alongside drug-running cronies. LeBlanc deftly swaps points of view every chapter, with some diving into the heads of our two young leads and others following a morally-grey police officer named Deputy Arnason, and the author does an excellent job of fully rounding-out each character, including with dialogue that's razor-sharp, biting, and realistic. Whereas some authors would lean too far into the ‘corrupt cop’ stereotype, LeBlanc allows readers to spend time with Arnason as he visits his mother in an assisted living facility before heading home after long shifts, giving him emotional depth that would’ve otherwise been sorely lacking. We see him interact with a wife who just wants a better life, and his motivations are explored through his interactions with her, various drug runners, and his coworkers. Motivations and personalities are shaped for Dallan and Hannah as well, but they aren’t as fully-formed as Arnason, but that’s all right—even though he’s the main villain of this book to an extent, he’s also the most compelling and interesting character.
As the novel progresses, we see Dallan and Hannah making the same mistakes their dead friends made, and their actions begin to catch up to them quickly. The three main characters meet in two explosive confrontations near the end, and everyone doesn’t make it out alive. However, once the climax comes and goes, LeBlanc then ends the novel on a very quiet note, an ambiguous one in a sense, and it makes readers wonder what the point of all the death and destruction was for in the first place.
This is LeBlanc’s first novel after writing a few poetry collections, and his prose translates wonderfully to the form. His writing is terse, beautiful, and descriptive, but he never gets carried away with long, detailed passages about something mundane, such as the way a landscape unspools outside a car window or how a character looks. He moves us readers from one scene to the next, and the pacing is perfect, especially for a novel that’s only around 240 pages long.
One of the only critiques here is that some of the action seemed contrived to the point where it might pull readers out of the story, including a scene at a local golf course near the middle point of the novel and a character’s death later in the story just prior to the climax. The convoluted and low chances of what occurs both during and after these scenes made them ring hollow and Deus-ex-machina-esque to me, but I can at least understand why the author made the choices he did for each situation, as unrealistic as they are of happening in the real world.
Overall, this is a slow-burn of a literary thriller, with an emphasis on the literary part. Don’t let that scare you away though—this is a gritty and tough rural noir novel, and the slowness helps lead to a crashing climax that makes you question the point of it all in the end, demonstrating the simple but tragic ways how drugs can disrupt so many lives. LeBlanc does a terrific job of building realistic settings, characters, and plot points, and the novel can easily be read in a sitting or two, allowing you to both breeze through it while also reflecting on the author’s true message once you put it down.
Recommended for fans of the rural noir genre, literary mysteries/thrillers, realistic crime stories dealing with the drug trade in everyday settings, and corrupt cop narratives.
Thanks to NetGalley, ECW Press, and Curtis LeBlanc for the digital ARC of Sunsetter in exchange for an honest review.
This was an interesting read that used fiction in a way to expose real life issues such as law enforcement corruption, the increasing opioid epidemic and teen violence. While this book scraped the surface of these topics, there was a lot of potential to dig further into it. The characters were fascinating, the writing interesting, but the plot needed a little more beef to make it 5 stars. The ending also left me with a lot of questions and I really wondered what would have come next had the story continued.
So it was a little difficult for me to get really into this book. It starts off slow and gives a detailed description of their town carnival from the view of two very young adults just looking to have some fun. Drugs and alcohol are the main topics of this book.. Once it actually picks up and get really interesting is when you see who is actually behind the "drug ring" in the town. Overall, it is a good book but I was hoping for a little more at the end. It definitely had the opportunity to go on for another chapter just to see how the outcome of her decision affected the life she chose.
Sunsetter is very timely and the characters felt real and fully-formed. I really enjoyed the plot twists and how they drove the story home. It didn't feel like the typical whodunnit. This book had such an interesting and beautiful writing style.
I enjoyed the writing style. LeBlanc evokes vivid images and develops the characters using spare prose that cuts to the essence. I was hooked on the story very quickly. It held my interest and I was keen to see how it ended.
However --- although the writing was great, the storyline was Swiss cheese.
If someone killed the person I loved right in front of me, there would be no way I'd agree not to call police, or to let the killer have some time to think, and be like "OK, I trust you will turn yourself in tomorrow." And then the next day, start hanging out with said killer, and even begin looking at them and thinking, "I am kinda attracted to them and hey, maybe...". And for the entire story to take place over 3 days? It takes 2 days for teens to bust a secret drug ring just by asking questions? (My town needs to hire them pronto because the cops here sure aren't doing it!)
I was disappointed at the too-neat little resolution after all the twists and messiness of the narrative up to that point. It was unsatisfying and unrealistic. Seriously? The old "put a gun in a dead man's hand and say it was suicide because testing for gunshot residue isn't a thing and the fact it would be blatantly obvious the wound wasn't made at skin contact range would never ever be noticed by experienced law enforcement" trick? 😒
In summation, the book is enjoyable if you don't think about it too much. It would have been a great made-for-TV movie on ABC back in 1979, if fentanyl was a thing then.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the eARC.
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for a free e-book in exchange for an honest review.
It’s Sunsetter, which is an annual rodeo more about people getting drunk and/or high than anything else. The story begins with Brooks and Nick dying at the rodeo, the result of the drug fueled atmosphere. The police mark both deaths as accidents, which will not investigated further. However, Dallan and Hannah aren’t convinced and investigate what really happened to their friends and why the police are trying to cover it up.. What they find is police corruption and not a clear story. In seeking justice will they find the truth, or will more people get hurt?
This is a twisty story with suspense, mystery and some surprises thrown in. An engaging read, fairly fast paced once it gets going. Its about how you can get stuck in small town life and not be able to find your way out.
Overall an interesting read! Recommend!
The tension and surprising plot twists drove the book to an excellent ending. Perfect for those who love solving mysteries and quick paced thrillers.