ASH CHILD: A Gabriel Du Pré Mystery

Peter Bowen, Author . St. Martin's Minotaur $23.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-312-28850-1

This compelling series, set in a contemporary Wild West where little old ladies come into the saloon, order red beers and go home and shoot at meddlesome strangers, offers another success. Gabriel Du Pré (last seen in 2001's Cruzatte and Maria) is back, not in the best of health but as curious and stubborn as ever. An old woman, Maddy Collins (she of the red beers), is beaten to death, and when Du Pré looks into it, he's knocked on the head as well. Two teenagers, good kids who've chosen bad friends, jump out as obvious suspects. The two disappear, which seems to confirm their guilt. With the Montana weather dry and hot, the threat of fire hangs over the area, creating nearly unbearable suspense. Beyond basic safety measures, there's nothing that can be done to guarantee that the Wolf Mountains and all the nearby houses will not go up in flames. Sure enough, fire breaks out. The discovery of the two teenagers' bodies on a burned hill makes it tragically clear that they weren't guilty. As fires spread, the fear of arson spurs Du Pré to further danger in an effort to find the truth. Du Pré's beloved, Madelaine, confers with the wise old Benetsee as Du Pré goes up against the Forest Service. There's a wonderful drawl to the pace here: though there's plenty of action, there's also time to enjoy the laconic, highly nuanced language and to catch up on the interwoven history of these folks—in the case of the mysterious, powerful Benetsee, a history may travel back centuries. It's a pleasure to read a story that was clearly written with pleasure. (Apr. 15)

FYI:The third and fourth books in the series, Wolf No Wolf and Notches, are being combined in a simultaneous trade paperback edition ($14.95; ISBN -28963-4). Bowen is also the author of Kelly and the Three-Toed Horse (Forecasts, Feb. 26, 2001) and other titles in his Yellowstone Kelly historical series.

Reviewed on: 03/25/2002
Release date: 04/01/2002
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