For today's review, I bring you a very fast-moving mystery from an author I really enjoy (even though hints of his politics make me suspect that if we were locked in a room together I'd be tearing his hair out and kicking him in the shins). So. . .
Title: Ash Child
Author: Peter Bowen
Publisher: St. Martin's Press, 2002. 256 pages.
It's fire season in the Wolf Mountains of Montana, and Gabriel Du Pre is worried. As if the high fire danger weren't enough, some people start turning up dead. And then the mountains catch on fire. Du Pre and the rest of the cast of colorful and unique characters have their work cut out for them.
Peter Bowen's Gabriel Du Pre mysteries are fast-moving, with a touch of humor that keeps the grimness from ever getting out of hand. Bowen paints a vivid picture of Metis culture (I'm not competent to judge how accurate that picture is), and the linguistic quirks permeate the story. The patios that Du Pre speaks is almost telegraphic, and that brevity and understatement carries over even into the narration. It's contagious, too--I find myself imitating the style after I've been reading for a while.
The writing style makes this a much shorter book and faster read than the 256 pages would suggest, and the plot moves along and a brisk pace from crisis to crisis. The insights and revelations about who did what and why are never overly explained, and there is a certain air of mysticism emanating from the shaman Benetsee and spreading to the whole narrative.
Bowen's work isn't to everyone's taste, I know. But if you like mysteries that strongly evoke a western setting and have fully realized characters with unique lives, a touch of humor, and well-plotted puzzles, you may well enjoy Gabriel Du Pre.
Full Disclosure: I checked Ash Child out of my library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."