Skunk Train

Down & Out. 2019. 248p. ISBN 9781643960555. pap. $15.95. F
His mother is dead, his father lives in Los Angeles, and 15-year-old Kyle Gill has taken up with his older cousin Deke in the rural Northern California town of Dormundt. Deke sells drugs with his friend and business partner, Jimmy. When Kyle skips class one day, he discovers 100 pounds of marijuana at Deke’s house that Deke and Jimmy stole from their dealer. The two men and Kyle hide out at Skunk Train Inn, a rundown roadside inn outside of town. Unbeknownst to them, the buyers of the stolen pot are dirty cops. When the deal goes awry and the cops murder one of the men, Kyle flees in Jimmy’s truck with the money to find his father. He meets Lizzie in San Francisco, and she agrees to help him locate his dad. In Los Angeles, a detective who is trying to solve the murder at Skunk Train Inn learns that Kyle’s stolen money is tied to the corrupt cops and a Mexican cartel.
VERDICT Clifford (“Jay Porter” series) delivers a fast-paced, readable thriller. Readers of S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders will enjoy this coming-of-age story; fans of Daniel Woodrell will appreciate its focus on family ties; and admirers of Richard Lange will delight in the California setting.

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