‘The Ruin Season’ by Kristopher Triana was a real surprise for me as I was a little unsure about what to expect. I haven’t read enough noir this year and I think this is one of the reasons I enjoyed this book so much. ‘The Ruin Season’ is like the literary equivalent of Springsteen’s classic ‘Nebraska’. It’s a book with a stripped back feel, brooding with raw emotion and atmosphere where Triana allows his characters to bare their souls and bleed onto every page. We follow the journey of horse wrangler and bipolar cowboy Jake Leonard; a hard-drinking, tortured soul still haunted by his past failures as a husband and his time spent inside. Whatever this guy does, bad things seem to happen. His love life is a disaster waiting to happen; his work is the only thing that keeps him going; that, and his friend Murray (the local barber) who provides him with a shoulder to lean on.
Murray also provides part of the narrative. Scattered throughout the story are sections where Murray reflects on his friendship with Leonard and this was a really nice touch to the story as Murray is another great character and is an important part of the tale due to his daughter’s relationship with Leonard’s girlfriend Nikki.
This book has a tragic feel throughout. It is probably best enjoyed by the fire with a smoke and a bottle of bourbon and maybe some tissues. I became incredibly attached to main character Leonard and often found myself wishing he would re-think things as he bumbles his way through life, often making poor decisions. There is a real sort of inevitability about his outcome, though the ending was not what I was expecting and credit to the author for not going down the road I thought he was. Triana has paced this brilliantly; it is steady, but incredibly engaging due to being filled with three-dimensional characters, scenes of suspense, fear, love and hatred.
The old cliché about a book being a roller-coaster of emotions is one I am going to use here. I wouldn’t be surprised to find this on a few best of lists come the end of the year. I know it will definitely be on mine. Absolutely superb.
Do yourself a favor and buy this book here.