Monday, 7 September 2015

The Woman Who Married A Bear - John Straley

Yet another review where I keep opening the file, sit staring at it for a while, then close it down, because I am just not sure what to write. It's another dreaded "well, it was fine" type of thing. As a mystery, it's...perfectly acceptable. It was an easy read. But I won't be rushing out to get the next in the series.

Is that enough? Okay, fine, I can at very least muster up a summary. The detective, who is suitably hard-boiled and drunk, but whose name I can't remember...let me look it up...Cecil Younger!...is hired by an old woman in a nursing home to look into the death of her son. He was a hunter and guide, killed. His assistant was convicted and is in jail for the crime. But the murdered man's mother doesn't think it adds up.

The detective starts to look into in a more or less desultory, drunken fashion, but then his roommate is shot with a high-powered rifle, and this turns into a classic noir trope of someone hurting your partner and you having to do something about it.

Turns out, the dead man's wife doesn't want Cecil looking into it, and his children don't want Cecil looking into it. The dead man's business partner, whose daughter's death was ruled a suicide, even after she was the only witness to the night of the murder, does want him looking into it.

People ply him with a lot of alcohol. His ex tries to convert him to Christ. He keeps drinking. The ending isn't particularly surprising, but it's not bad, either. Like I said, this is a fairly good mystery, but not a revolutionary one.

The inside cover compares him to Tony Hillerman, and I have not read any Tony Hillerman, but I have to wonder if that's lazy marketing based on the fact that Hillerman's books and this series takes place around and in Native cultures. (Cecil is quite white.) I mean, one's Navajo (I think?) and the other Tlingit, in Alaska, so they're probably not all that much alike, but it feels like something a publisher would slap on there to try to sell more books.

The Alaskan setting is interesting, with the frequent small puddle-jumper planes to get to remote areas, but it does feel like a bit more could have been done with it. Most of the action still takes place in cities, or trailer parks, or small towns. There is one trip out to a hunting camp, where the man was murdered.

So, was the man a bear? And if so, who killed him? There are answers, and they're okay. I wouldn't avoid another book by the same author, but there was nothing here that grabbed me and made me eager for another slug.

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