The Stick Game (Gabriel Du Pre Mystery)

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9780312326142: The Stick Game (Gabriel Du Pre Mystery)
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With their exceptional characterizations, evocative setting, and smartly plotted mysteries, Peter Bowen's Montana novels have always fascinated readers and critics alike. In The Stick Game, Bowen's lyrical, spare writing carries us once again to a part of the country few of us know much about.

The latest installment in this unique series finds amateur sleuth and cattle rancher Gabriel Du Pre uncovering the dirty secrets of an industrial gold mine and searching for a troubled teenage boy. At a trading fair in rural Montana, Du Pre and his longtime love Madelain run into Jeanne now worries about the disappearance of her sixteen-year-old son, Danny. Meanwhile, Du Pre befriends a musician from Fort Belknap Reservation who introduces him to disturbing parallels between the huge incidence of birth defects in the Indian population there and the activities of the persephone gold mine located near the reservation. With some reluctance, Du Pre agrees to look into both problems.

But then Danny's body is found in a well, and Du Pre discovers a link between the boy's life and what goes on at Fort Belknap. Working with a doctor who's long been concerned about Persephone's practices, Du Pre dangerously confronts the indifference and recklessness of the industrial mine.

Perfectly capturing the cadences of Metis life, Peter Bowen beautifully depicts the people and landscape of remote Montana.

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Review:

Gabriel Du Pre, the fiddle-playing Native American detective, is back in a seventh Montana mystery. This time Du Pre is enlisted by his lover Madeline to look into the disappearance of the teenage son of her old childhood friend Jeanne. Like Jeanne's other children, and many more youngsters on the Fort Belknap Reservation, Danny suffers from mental and physical problems that seem to Du Pre to be connected with the activities of Persephone, a gold mining operation adjacent to reservation land. When Danny turns up dead, Du Pre enlists the aid of his wealthy and well-connected friend Bart Fascelli, who in turn brings a retired mining executive into the search for proof of Persephone's illegal activities.

Du Pre is a complex and interesting protagonist with a strong if troubled relationship with his Indian heritage and an almost mystical connection to the land. There's hardly any mystery involved; the mining company is identified as the villain early on, and Du Pre's efforts to pin responsibility on Persephone take second place to the detailed exposition of Native American customs, rituals, and dialect; the expertly evoked ambiance of the harsh Montana environment; and the well-drawn minor characters, particularly Bart, Madeline, and Billy Gourard, a young Native American boy whose final futile effort to make the mining company accept responsibility for its crime provides the denouement. A welcome addition to the Western mystery genre, The Stick Game will be eagerly snapped up by fans of Tony Hillerman and Nevada Barr. --Jane Adams

About the Author:

Peter Bowen, a Montanan, writes of the West. Cowboy, hunting and fishing guide, folksinger, poet, essayist, and novelist, he's written the picaresque Yellowstone Kelly historical novels, humor columns, and essays on blood sports as Coyote Jack, and the Gabriel Du Pre mysteries, in part because "the Metis are a great people, a wonderful people, and not many Americans know anything about them."

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