Monday, March 20, 2023

The Trackers by Charles Frazier takes a propulsive journey across Depression-era America

Following Varina (2018), Frazier is in top form for his fifth novel, which traverses America in its portrait of contrasting Depression-era lives.

“The Trackers” is the name that New Deal artist Valentine “Val” Welch gives the mural he’s commissioned to paint in the post office of Dawes, Wyoming. He aims to inspire small-town pride by showcasing regional highlights.

While lodging at the expansive ranch of aspiring politician John Long and his younger wife, Eve, Val gets pulled into their drama. Not long after a stressful dinner party, Eve takes off, a small Renoir from Long’s collection in hand, and doesn’t return. Long asks Val to find her. Events turn more dangerous and puzzling than expected.

From an exhausting trip to wild rural Florida to the newly constructed, cinnabar-hued Golden Gate Bridge, the locales feel period-authentic, and the writing hums with spectacular word-images. While Val narrates, using a light folksy style that Frazier’s fans will recognize, the novel’s primary hero is Eve. An inscrutably captivating woman from impoverished origins who became a teenage hobo and sang in cowboy bands, she has reasons for fleeing wealthy married life, and the mystery ignites the plot.

The Old West still lingers in this propulsive tale of individualistic characters striving to beat the odds.

The Trackers will be published by Ecco/HarperCollins on April 11th, and this review was originally written for Booklist's Feb. 15th issue. You can find my review of Varina in an earlier blog post.  Read more about the background to The Trackers  and the author's long writing career, in his interview with Publishers Weekly. I love the illustration on the cover, too, which suits the material.


  1. Katharine Ott5:11 AM

    I've had "Varina" on my TBR for a while and loved his book "Nightwoods." From my review: "It's a lyrical homage to the rough beauty of the mountains and hollers, but also an excellent mystery-thriller." I'd read anything he writes! Thanks for the review!

    1. I haven't read Nightwoods, but that sounds appealing, especially the mystery/thriller plot. This one has a strong mystery aspect, too, and the resolution surprised me. Varina was good, but it moves slowly.