This novel is the next one after Mucho Mojo in the Hap and Leonard series, and yes, the title refers to what you think it does. Think bears and Discovery Channel or Animal Planet. This one was published in 1995. And again, I love the cover. A little tombstone is just visible beside the tree.
Hap and Leonard are having fun setting fire to the neighborhood crack house on Christmas Eve when they find out that Hap's ex-lover, lawyer and wannabe reporter the lovely African American Florida Grange, is missing. Her boyfriend and their acquaintance, Hanson, begs them to do him a favor in return for not putting them in jail. He wants them to go to the still racist, backwoods circa 1960 town of Grovetown in East Texas to look for her.
They do, and it all goes from there to a town with deep, dark secrets that are better unknown. Backwoods politics, mean men in gray suits, and fights break out as they search for Florida.
Plot: 4/5 [The plot moves swiftly and with the usual humor. In fact, I was reading passages of this to my husband and good friend, and they thought they were hilarious, too.]
Characterization: 4/5 [Hap and Leonard are as likable and "real" as ever, and the minor characters are drawn well. No other author has pegged the Southern character sketch like Lansdale. He can breathe life into a character in three sentences and make readers remember that character for the whole novel. If you like your characters unique, he's your author.]
Atmosphere/spooky elements: 4/5 [Just the thought of the mission that Hap and Leonard are given made my skin crawl, for starters. Lansdale also does a lovely job of describing the landscape that looks like a "war zone" due to all the paper mill ravaging of old oaks or the skeletal pines (like bones) that remain to be seen on a drive through Texas (44). The Southern Gothic elements-- graves, bones, decaying remains, floods and acts of nature, scary rednecks-- are strong in this one, but so is the raunchy humor.]
Literary elements: 4/5 [Yes, Lansdale writes like a dream, and he has a keen eye for what ails society, the ills of political correctness and for seeing human nature rightly.]
Rating: 4 stars ****
I recommend this one. If you like Hap and Leonard, you will want to read them all anyway. If you need a laugh, too, and you are Southern and have a sense of humor, I guarantee you that any of these novels will make you guffaw. They will also make you think about the questions of life and death.