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Sin Killer: A Novel (Berrybender Narratives) Paperback – August 8, 2005

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Product Details

  • Series: Berrybender Narratives (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (August 8, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743246845
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743246842
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (160 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #246,812 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Larry McMurtry's Sin Killer is a wildly entertaining ride through the untamed Great Plains. The first installment of a proposed tetralogy, The Berrybender Narratives, Sin Killer follows the adventures of the Berrybenders, a large, noble English family traveling the Missouri River in 1832. This deeply self-absorbed and spoiled family leaves England for the unknown of the American West, based solely on a "whim" and Lord Berrybender's desire to "shoot different animals from those he shot at home." The novel joins the family as they make their way toward Yellowstone aboard a luxury steamer, accompanied by a motley assemblage of servants, guides, and natives. Along the way, this "floating Europe" and its bickering, stubborn passengers encounter constant adversity, including warring natives, hellacious weather, accidental deaths, and kidnappings.

Thanks largely to Sin Killer's gallery of colorful personalities, McMurtry keeps most of the action firmly in the realm of fish-out-of-water farce. One such character is the independent and opinionated eldest daughter Tasmin, who, frustrated by her family's conventions, escapes the steamer, whereupon she meets and falls in love with Jim Snow, a.k.a. Sin Killer. Snow, an Indian killer raised by natives, is a stoical, God-fearing man who won't tolerate blasphemy. With prose that flows as naturally as the Missouri, McMurtry weaves together a large cast and vast setting into a thoroughly exciting, hilarious adventure novel. Though Sin Killer focuses on a love story and contains plenty of realistic violence, McMurtry's efficient voice and matter-of-fact perspective leaves little room for tragedy or sentimentality, instead emphasizing high comedy. This is wonderful storytelling from a narrator in perfect agreement with his subject. Sin Killer should please McMurtry's many fans, who now have much to look forward to. --Ross Doll --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

I just could not stay interested in the book.
First of all, crucial events happen relatively quickly without too much plot or character development.
Amazon Customer
One thing that is really important though, is to read all four books in this series.
Paul D. Bacon

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Linda Linguvic HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 11, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Larry McMurtry is one of the best known western writers today. He won a Pulitzer Prize for his "Lonesome Dove" trilogy and is also known for "Terms of Endearment" and "The Last Picture Show". Now, he's taken on a big task - a four-novel series he calls "The Berrybender Narratives". This book, "Sin Killer" is Book 1 and was just published in May of 2002.
A mere 300 pages long, it's a wild comedic ride with the Berrybender family in 1832. They've come over from England and are on a boat making its way up the Missouri River. There's Lord Berrybender, his wife, his mistress, six of his 14 legitimate children, servants, guides, tutors, artists and a couple of Indian chiefs traveling home after being feted in Washington. The family is rich and spoiled and totally clueless. They meet a variety of tragedies but the writer presents it all as a farce, and I couldn't help laughing out loud at times.
Central to the plot is the oldest daughter, Tasmin. She falls in love with an American God-fearing frontiersman named Jim Snow, nicknamed "Sin Killer" by the Indians. Their romance is hilarious as are the other events in the book, as the many characters meet with accidents, violent death and love affairs. Several of the women are held captive by the Indians, some of the men are caught in a snowstorm while out shooting buffalo, and the wild and wooly frontier itself plays a role in the story. There are lots and lots of characters who romp across the pages, each with a distinctive personality, profession and passion. I loved them all.
This is a fun book, not to be taken seriously. It's just pure entertainment all the way and the action never stops. I loved it. And, since all the threads of the complex plot were certainly not tied together on the last page, I am eagerly awaiting Book 2. I sure hope it's released soon because I can't wait to continue this very enjoyable saga. Recommended.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Hendry VINE VOICE on July 19, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Reading through the reviews for Sin Killer, I see there is a decided split of opinion about this one. I really enjoyed the novel, but I can see how many would absolutely hate it. I think if you are looking for a Western in the Lonesome Dove vein, keep looking and don't pick this one up. I think the publishers do this novel a disservice by packaging it in the manner of Lonesome Dove. If you enjoy a good toungue-in-cheek romp, one that will take you a little below the surface if you want to, then give Sin Killer a try. Larry McMurtry is certainly a talented writer. I have read many of his novels, and on the storytelling level, none ever fail to disappoint and in that connection Sin Killer makes enjoyable reading. The story of the Berrybender family--an eccentric collection of British nutcases in the early 18th century who decide to explore the American west on a steamboat so the borderline insane patriarch can go hunting--is, of course, absurd. The story, however, allows McMurtry to explore the differences between American and British culture at the time, enabling him to smash through the assumptions that the Americans were wild and uncivilized. Most characters in the novel (except for perhaps the Sin Killer himself) are full of folly and hubris, and McMurtry exploits them to our benefit. The characters in the novel form a microcosm of their respective societies--everyone being an exaggeration. The story is fun and makes for fun reading (so long as you can forget you ever read Lonesome Dove). If you can handle this one not being anything like Lonesome Dove (other than it being written by McMurtry and taking place in the American West), if you are looking for an enjoyable, humorous read, pick this one up. It's a lot of fun.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Dave Schwinghammer VINE VOICE on October 31, 2002
Format: Hardcover
If you've been nostalgic for the years when Bonanza, Gunsmoke, and Maverick were hits on television, take heart. Larry McMurtry is still cranking out the gothic westerns.
SIN KILLER is the first offering of a four-volume work set along the Missouri River in the 1830's. An English family that includes Lord and Lady Berrybender and their fourteen children along with their entourage is bent on exploring the untamed American West. The cast of characters numbers fifty-eight (Don't worry, there's a glossary), headed by Tasmin Berrybender, a willful young lady who falls in love with Jim Snow (think Jim Bridger) and is nonplused when he doesn't hang on her every word and deed. The other plot line involves how often Lord Albany Berrybender gets himself in some kind of pickle, shooting off his toes at one point, getting caught in a blizzard in another.
Twelve-year-old Mary Berrybender was perhaps the most engaging character. She is erudite beyond her years and has mysterious powers, the ability to sniff out edible roots, Jerusalem artichokes, tubers, onions.
Ever since LONESOME DOVE and Blue Duck, I've been impressed with McMurtry's facility with Indian names. In this one, we've got Big White, The Hairy Horn, Neighing Horses, Blue Thunder, and Cat Head. Three of these are old men being escorted back home from a parley in Washington D.C. by Toussaint Charbonneau (the guide on the Louis and Clark expedition). He keeps losing them when the steamboat snags on a sandbar.
There's lots of ravaging and fornication going on, rather much if you're the prudish sort. McMurtry is having a wonderful time making fun of nineteenth century aristocracy. SIN KILLER would qualify as a comic novel if so many characters weren't falling down stairs breaking their necks or being hacked to death by axes. The novel also comes to a screeching halt, abrupt, even for a four-part novel.
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More About the Author

Larry McMurtry is the author of twenty-nine novels, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Lonesome Dove. His other works include two collections of essays, three memoirs, and more than thirty screenplays, including the coauthorship of Brokeback Mountain, for which he received an Academy Award. His most recent novel, When the Light Goes, is available from Simon & Schuster. He lives in Archer City, Texas.

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