The Outcasts by Kathleen Kent

Little, Brown and Company
New York
September 24, 2013
Paperback, 336 pages

After reading, enjoying, and reviewing Ms. Kent’s first two books of historical fiction entitled The Heretic’s Daughter and The Traitor’s Wife, I was anticipating another intriguing read from this Dallas author. She did not disappoint. The Outcasts is about a newly commissioned Texas state policeman and his pursuit of an unsavory child killer across Texas and to New Orleans. We find Nate Cannon retrieving from the field his two assigned mentors, George Deerling and Dr. Tom Goddard, because a vicious outlaw named McGill has committed more murder and mayhem near Houston. When Nate finds the rangers with a prisoner, he informs them of the latest news of McGill, and the trio is in pursuit after convincing the prisoner it might be best for him to go ahead and bite down on a cyanide-filled bullet. The time is 1870, not long after “the war of Northern aggression.”

Besides the pursuit of McGill, the story of Lucinda, a young woman who suffers from epilepsy or “fits” is presented. She has been working for a madam, but is now on her way to teach school in Middle Bayou, near Houston, at the behest of her partner/lover, a man we only know as Bill. They have plans for some sort of scheme that is slowly revealed as the book progresses.

Ms. Kent weaves all the characters together to form a story of deception and greed that does not end well for all. I really enjoyed her characterizations of Nate and Lucinda. Nate has been surviving on his own since a young age and tried to serve in the war at 16, but he only got as far as Arkansas. He was tasked with driving 300 horses back to Texas with some other teens. Now he is married and wants to start a farm in Oklahoma with his wife and daughter but needs some seed money. Lucinda is a math/geometry whiz, something that has kept her sane since she was institutionalized at a young age due to her seizures that her family did not understand. Besides Nate and Lucinda, the two elder rangers had their own unique stories.

The Outcasts author Kathleen Kent

Following is a short excerpt that exemplifies Ms. Kent’s excellent descriptive writing:

“The rain pelted first one side of the street and then the other, as though poured from a sweeping, celestial watering can; and the earth and the rotting leaves blanketing it had a keen, wasting odor, like coffee grinds boiled in fish oil, so unlike the astringent, metallic scent of the desert of West Texas or the peppery fragance of the Big Thicket to the east. It was the smell of long unattended decay, of people living in too near proximity to one another; the effluvia of extravagant wastefulness.”

I joined Goodreads recently and bookmarked The Outcasts as a book I wanted to read. Somehow, I was selected to receive a free review copy. I can’t even remember if I signed up for a giveaway, or if it was because I was a new member, but I was excited that I was going to receive this newly released book. In exchange, Goodreads wants me to post a review. I would have written about this book regardless of the giveaway, as I had Ms. Kent’s two other novels.

The book I received was a paperback proof copy. My only suggestion for the book is that a map be included since certain cities mentioned are ones that I am sure not everyone knows their location. Other than the addition of a map for reference, I have no strong criticisms of this book.

Ms. Kent brought her story together expertly. She knows how to thread together stories and characters. I enjoy her writing style and cannot wait to see what she decides to write about for the next book. Of course, I enjoyed the setting being in Texas. Reading about somewhat similar cities at the time such as Galveston and New Orleans was also a treat. The Outcasts by Kathleen Kent was reading time that was very well spent.