Look at the cover art. What do you see? Barren landscape. Dead grass and dead trees beneath a darkening sky. When you look at the interior landscapes of Woodrell's characters, what will you see? About the same. Storms, bleakness, dead things. Woodrell is a child of the Ozarks. He writes what he knows, and he writes it well. But after a handful of stories, he starts to sound like One-Note Johnny. He may play it on different instruments, but it's still the same note -- Ozark Dark. Once you figure out it's never going to end well, you begin reading with mental breath bated. This seems like a nice little story...wonder when the girl's going to hack her mother's neck open with a meat cleaver... Which, I suppose, is the purpose of the genre. Fans of the bleak and the noir have written laudatory reviews of this collection. If this is not your usual fare but you want to see what Woodrell can do, I'd steer you toward his novel, Winter's Bone. It showcases his writing chops and has more appeal for mainstream readers.