Celine

Peter Heller. Knopf, $25.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-451-49389-7
Despite its intriguing premise, Heller’s (The Dog Stars) third novel is a missing persons mystery that never quite finds its mark. Celine, descended from the original governors of the Plymouth Colony, is a well-heeled investigator, the “Prada PI,” whose age (68) is still well below her success rate (96%). Gabriela hires her to look into the disappearance of Gabriela’s father, a famous nature photographer who years ago was presumed dead after a grizzly attack just outside of Yellowstone National Park. Agreeing with Gabriela that the death appeared staged, Celine and her husband, Pete, retired and almost as resourceful as his wife, head out West. The plucky Celine has her charms, but other characters, such as Elbie Chicksaw, the Montana tracker who studied comparative literature at Dartmouth, ring false, as does some of the dialogue: “You sound like that Neruda poem I love so.” The case slowly breaks open, but long flashbacks to Celine’s uber-WASPy childhood summers on Fishers Island, N.Y., sap the narrative of momentum, as does a subplot involving Celine’s son, who embarks on an missing persons investigation of his own in New England. The majesties and dangers of Yellowstone supply a compelling backdrop against which to set a story about “how easily parents can disappear and families fall apart,” and Heller, a gifted nature writer as well as novelist, handles certain set pieces well. But too often the novel seems lost in the wilderness. 100,000-copy announced first printing. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 02/27/2017
Release date: 03/07/2017
Genre: Fiction
Compact Disc - 978-1-5247-5104-3
Library Binding - 500 pages - 978-1-68324-364-9
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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