Houses of the Dead
There is an obverse to the California dream, where pillars of the community tear at the carcasses of the dead; where they sacrifice their young on the altar of their self-deception. These hinterlands are ubiquitous, but while in the cities they crouch in shadow, across the valleys and up the mountains they assert their purer nature, parading their disfigurements in the California sun.
When aspiring writer Ryan Melton lands in the Sierra Nevada foothills in the mid-1980s, he’s seeking nothing more momentous than a brief recuperative visit with his old friends Jack and Karen before beginning a long-planned novel. But almost upon arrival he finds himself ensnared in the tangled machinations of an incestuous town and a fractious clan, as Karen’s family and their associates shred each other over the estate of a recently deceased relative, while her siblings launch a war for control of the small community’s underworld.
It’s an old battle into which Ryan—outsider, narrator, and finally participant—finds himself inexorably drawn. While Karen’s brother R.C. is arguably an outlaw, her sister Danielle is certainly a sociopath. Their contest over ownership of the dead cousin’s property is the crucible in which the family’s myriad impurities are rendered to their constituent elements. Ryan struggles between his long-suppressed passion for Karen and the drug- and power-laced currents that entangle him in crime and drive others to murder, while the community lurches toward an ultimate confrontation between competing strains of darkness.