Review by Booklist Review
The Great Western Novel is alive and well, thanks in no small part to McMurtry, who here embarks on the first of four tales of the Berrybender family. It's 1832, and Lord and Lady Berrybender--wealthy Brits incongruously venturing into the Wild West--make their way up the Missouri River (the Yellowstone, the Rio Grande, and the Brazos will be the settings for the next three adventures, each making up one year of travel). Among those in the sizable entourage are 6 of the 14 Berrybender children, including Tasmin, a gutsy, industrious young woman who generally takes charge of the hapless group--no small task, as Lord and Lady Berrybender live by whim and are always "the least likely to accept the severities of logic." But Tasmin's independence brings strife, too, especially when she hooks up with frontiersman Jim Snow, an Indian fighter and wanna-be preacher. They call him the Sin Killer, more for his moralistic exploits than his violent tendencies, but nonetheless he is an enigma to the Berrybenders. With characteristic wit and charisma, and without overt romanticism, McMurtry returns us to the American frontier with a cast of characters nearly as varied and compelling as the Lonesome Dove ensemble. Fans of that Pulitzer Prize-winning and miniseries-inspiring novel will be sure to stand in line for this one. --Mary Frances Wilkens
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Part western, part satire of the English class system contrasted with rugged frontier society, the first volume of this proposed tetralogy gets off to a shaky start as McMurtry introduces the randy, bumbling Berrybender clan, a rich but inept aristocratic British family that journeys up the Missouri River to try to capitalize on the land boom of the 1830s. The early romantic subplot shows promise when beautiful but flighty Lady Tasmin Berrybender, temporarily separated from her group, is rescued by Jim Snow, a quiet, religious trapper known as the Sin Killer, both for his piety (I'm hard on sin ) and for his fierce fighting skills. Snow returns Tasmin to the family vessel, and his sudden marriage proposal delights Tasmin, until she discovers that he already has two Indian wives. The other narrative lines aren't nearly as entertaining, as McMurtry veers back and forth between outlining the war between various rival Indian tribes and trying to generate comic sparks with the Berrybenders' ongoing series of pratfalls. He has some brief success in the later chapters when Tasmin defies her pompous father, Lord Berrybender, as he tries to undo the marriage to keep the family bloodline pure, and Jim Snow remains an intriguing figure throughout. But much of the light comedy lands with a thud, and the introduction of a raft of mostly superfluous characters takes the edge off McMurtry's prose and makes the Berrybenders seem silly and inane rather than charming. McMurtry does plant a few promising plot seeds for the ensuing books, but it will take a more focused and genuinely humorous effort the next time out to make this concept work. While the narrative fails to satisfy as a true western, readers should enjoy McMurtry's portrait of the terrain bordering the Missouri River. Future volumes will be set on or beside three other rivers, the Yellowstone, the Rio Grande and the Brazos. Agent, Sarah Chalfant. (May 13) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review
McMurtry here begins a planned tetralogy of the adventures of the Berrybender family. The Berrybenders are wealthy members of the British aristocracy. In 1832, they travel up the Missouri River in a luxurious steamboat with a legion of servants, Indian chiefs, a cello-playing mistress, a cook, a tutor, a governess, and a French femme du chambre who manages to fall off the boat, much to the amusement of the Indians. In true McMurtry tradition, disaster strikes in myriad ways, and members of the party are scattered across the Great Plains. At the center of the action is the eldest Berrybender daughter, Tamsin, and her growing love for a mysterious Westerner, the fearsome Indian fighter/preacher known as the Sin Killer. It is hard to describe this work succinctly because there is so much action, but in a nutshell, it is a ship of fools, a slapstick black comedy set against the immense backdrop of the American West. The fabulous Alfred Molina narrates the story, and his facility with voices and accents is simply dazzling. Enthusiastically recommended for all libraries; patrons will eagerly await the next installment.-Barbara Perkins, Irving P.L., TX (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
The master of amiable, easygoing westerns (Boone's Luck, 2000, etc.) launches part one of the four-book adventures of a rich, noble, pleasantly debauched English family in the Louisiana Territory. "Sin Killer" is one of the handles by which lanky, handsome, freelance explorer Jim Snow is known. Master of every skill known in 1830s Indian country, Snow is still uncertain how to deal with the stark-nekkid and headstrong daughter of an English lord he encounters when he himself is also stark-nekkid. Each had been bathing in a reach of the Missouri River prior to the cute-meet-he because that's where he bathes, she, Lady Tasmin Berrybender, because she'd gotten muddy after drifting away from the steamboat hired by her ridiculous, philandering, filthy-rich father, Lord Berrybender. Tasmin is ripe for an amorous adventure and keen to get away from the rest of the Berrybenders. Understandably. Life on the steamboat with them would try anyone's nerves. Her mum, Lady Berrybender, is a loud lush, and the Lord is a sort of Squire Western on steroids. He's brought with him on his New World shooting-party an artist, a Polish gamekeeper, French governess, German tutoress, myriad servants, several Indians being returned home after a visit to the White Man's president, and his current mistress, an ambitious cellist. Along also several of Tasmin's quarrelsome younger siblings, so numerous that their names drift into numbers. Tasmin would love to trade all this chaos for high adventure with good-looking Mr. Snow in the America she has romanticized, but first she and Snow need to get past his lack of interest in her ceaseless questions and her indignation over his two wives back in Ute territory. When all wind up frozen in for the winter on the upper Missouri, Lord B. will have lost numerous digits, and several of the party will fall victim to an exceedingly grumpy Russo-Indian woman with spurious ties to the spirit world. Tom Jones in the Wild West. More to come.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.