On first inspection of Last Things by David Searcy, I expected a wild-ride horror novel. Never judge a book by its cover, they say, but I did. The cover depicts a scarecrow against a blood red sky, and the cover promo copy says that Searcy won the First Novel Award from the International Horror Guild for his debut novel, Ordinary Horror. I did not just assume Last Things was a horror novel because of the synopsis on the back book cover. But I fear I was wrong.
Let's see if I can explain the plot. The entire time reading, I pictured nothing but darkness. No sunlight at all, despite the story's Texas setting. When I say darkness, it is not that it was eerily dark, just that it was dark. Dark and dirty. The dirty comes from the main character, Luther, who lives in a beat-up trailer surrounded by a cow pasture and barely makes enough money to survive. Odd things take place in that pasture: scarecrows stuffed with animal parts hanging from trees keep appearing.
What gets everyone talking, though, is when the town's sheriff catches a whale of a catfish that possibly resembles Jesus — a sure-fire sign that the end of the world is incrementally approaching. The Holy Spirit is about to descend onto -- or ascend into -- them all. Luther doesn't buy it. He and his dog Yurang become occupied perfecting a trap to snare the creature responsible.
So this small Texas town is experiencing bizarre scarecrows, mincemeat animal parts, a man trying to capture some unknown something in an animal trap, a huge religious fish (which lights a fire under the cult-the religious fanatics), and the disappearance of a little girl.
Luther teams up with a woman friend, Agnes, to search for answers to what is really going on around town; they eventually join forces with Deputy Sheriff Beagle. What is in the pasture? What's making these meaty scarecrows? What's up with the photocopies of the church flyers advertising the church and the fish?
The story lags and drags. Not much of a lot happens until the end. You end up liking the characters, who are are obscure but well-defined. Though this book is full of flowery literary prose, I just always got the feeling that I was either not getting something or that the author was forgetting to tell me something.