by Peter Bowen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Received for review from Amazon Vine
After I finished Tony Hillerman’s 18-book Joe Leaphorn series, stories soaked in the Indian culture of New Mexico, I went in search of another like it. You know, with a down-to-earth character who doesn’t know how to live life except by a rigid moral code in a backwater town. I found CJ Box‘s 16-book (and counting) Joe Pickett series, set in the gorgeous sometimes cold and desolate world of Wyoming, where nature is not only a setting, but a character, plot point, and the motivation for huge chunks of the action. Truly, I figured I’d never find another series like that.
And then Peter Bowen’s Bitter Creek (Open Road 2015) showed up in my Amazon Vine queue, thirteenth in the Gabriel Du Pre series about a Meti fiddler who develops a local reputation for solving mysteries. In this latest addition to Bowen’s atmospheric series, Gabriel’s girlfriend’s son’s ex-commanding officer hears the voices of long-dead French-Indian murder victims (in a sweat lodge where he is drying out after a drinking binge) who can’t pass on to their final rest until their murders are avenged. DuPre sets out to uncover the truth and bring justice.
An amateur crime solver–doesn’t sound that unique, but a few characteristics set this one apart. First, the story is written in the French prairie patois native to these Montana residents–
“Amalie have my mother she is fifty almost, my mother is some surprise you bet.”
Second, the author effectively slows the world down for readers with his writing voice. Actions are stretched out, time crawls, and readers feels their muscles unwind. Here’s an example:
“The old woman stood up, turned, sat down. She put her feet on the little platform. She nodded to Du Pre…”
Every writer has been lectured about leaving out the unnecessary parts. In this case, ‘break the rules’ is better advice.
Another unusual characteristic of Bowen’s writing style is that the story is written entirely in third person, in DuPre’s point of view. Often, that happens in first person, but most authors use the third person to put readers into many heads, see the world through a wide variety of viewpoints. Not Bowen. It’s all Du Pre, all the time.
And always, there’s a wry humor underpinning thoughts, actions, motivations. Here’s an example:
“When you started out as a cowboy,” Father Van Den Heuvel said, “had the wheel been invented?”
“Saw the first one,” said Booger Tom. “Didn’t think much of it, tell you the truth. Speeded things up. Most of our troubles today come of speedin’ things up…”
Now that I’m past the sadness of finishing both Tony Hillerman and CJ Box’s series, I’m infatuated with this one. I checked the other twelve from my library (the librarian had to order them from other sites–she was quite patient with me) and just finished them all. Sigh.
Has anyone else read this series? What did yo think?
If you’d like more detail on this eclectic cast of characters, read ‘Of Peter Bowen and Gabriel Du Pre’.
More atmospheric books:
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is the author/editor of dozens of books on integrating tech into education, webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, adjunct professor of technology in education, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her book at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.