Nick Corey is the High Sheriff of Potts County and kind of a simpleton. He doesn't arrest anyone and mostly stays out of trouble, other than affair he's having with another man's wife. Or is his genial nature a cover for something more sinister... ?
Yes. Yes it is. It's a front for the fact that he's a manipulative, cold-blooded killer. He kills two pimps and tricks another sheriff into taking the blame. He launches a smear campaign against another man running for sheriff. He does a handful of other despicable deeds and is so slick you almost forget what a scumbag he is.
Jim Thompson is an undiscovered gem, light years ahead of the other pulp writers of his day. Pop. 1280 is told in the first person and to say Nick is an unreliable narrator is putting it lightly. Even though he's clearly a psychopath, the book has quite a few blackly comic moments. Even though he's a scumbag, watching the master manipulator in action is something to behold. It's definitely a page turner after the first couple of pages.
Jim Thompson is the real deal. I can't recommend this enough to fans of crime fiction.