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The Coyotes of Carthage


The Coyotes of Carthage

Categorized as a mystery, political thriller and dark comedy, this impressive debut novel by former trial attorney Steven Wright is about Andre “Dre” Ross.

An ex-con and failing operative at the DC consulting firm of Martin, Fitzpatrick & Deville, Dre is sent to Carthage County, South Carolina, to “fix” an election. His client is PISA, a shadowy international firm that sees the gold under the rolling hills of Carthage County. Knowing that the county council will turn down any request to mine in an area known for its landscape, it plans to convince Carthage residents to vote on an initiative, masked as patriotic self-determination, to welcome mining to their county.

"While no one is wholly good, a few stand out for their humanity in this nuanced portrait of a southern backwater."

Dre, who messed up his last assignment, knows this is his last chance to redeem himself, though he’s horrified at the idea of spending weeks in the rural south. Brendan, his assistant for this endeavor, is the idealistic grandson of his mentor and cofounder of the political consultancy, Mrs. Fitz. Together, they set out to find local citizens to gather petition signatures. Tyler and Chalene Lee are their choice, though arguably a flawed one, given Tyler’s tendency to ignore directions and Chalene’s campaign to convert everyone. Still, they begin the process of co-opting the townspeople and maligning or paying off whoever stands in their way.

When it comes, the denouement is anti-climactic, but by then it’s almost beside the point. THE COYOTES OF CARTHAGE is not a thriller or mystery, but rather the story of how dark money twists those who administer it as much as those who are targeted by it. It’s also about the relationships that can form between unlikely allies like Dre, the angry victim of poverty and racism, and his private school-educated assistant Brendan, as well as Bible-toting Chalene.

While no one is wholly good, a few stand out for their humanity in this nuanced portrait of a southern backwater.

Reviewed by Lorraine W. Shanley on April 17, 2020

The Coyotes of Carthage
by Steven Wright