WOW. At 900 pages, this book is an absolute monster, but it's broken up into three parts (I the story of the final events leading up to the death of EJ Watson as told by various characters, II Watson's son Lucius researching his father's life, and III the story of Watson's life as told by Watson himself), which makes it a bit easier to read. The writing is masterful, great sense of place and description of early 1900's Florida.
Shadow Country is three books in one. Each book tells the same story, but from a different point of view. The story is historical fiction about E.J. Watson, a legendary sugar farmer in turn of the century Florida. The book takes place in a Florida that was as wild as the western frontier. E.J. Watson had a sugar plantation in the Ten Thousand Islands on the Western coast of Florida. Watson had a reputation for being a ruthless killer, most prominent was the rumor of "Watson Payday" where he was said to kill his field hands at the end of harvest so he wouldn't have to pay them. The first book in the novel (which has been previously published as a stand alone novel called Killing Mister Watson) tells the story of Watson from the point of view of his neighbors who eventually gun down Watson and claim self defense (this is not a spoiler as it is revealed in the prologue). In this section the reader sees the myth of Watson growing, but you are not sure what is truth and what is purely rumor. The second book (previous published as a stand alone called Lost Man's River) follows Watson's son Lucious who eight years after his father was killed is trying to find out the truth about his father. In this book, Lucious and the reader uncover some answers, but much is still unclear. The third book is written in the voice of Watson, who if telling his own story. In this section, many of the questions remaining are answered, although as a reader I was not sure how much to trust what Watson was telling me.
I really enjoyed reading this novel. I learned a lot about Florida history and the everglades. The story talks about people making their living hunting plume birds and gators and how fast the populations were depleted so people had to find other ways to survive. I also found it interesting to explore how a man's life became a legend, even while he was still alive. It took awhile to get into the book because there were so many characters to keep straight in the first book, but once I got a feel for who was who I became wrapped up the mystery of perception and truth.