Sunday, January 8, 2012

Specimen Song and Wolf, No Wolf by Peter Bowen

Last summer I read the first book in this series, Coyote Wind, but before I could review it my mother had a stroke and I stayed in the hospital with her for a month--which is why the review, when I was able to get around to it, was so perfectly awful. I did really like that book, and I want to emphasize that now because I'm about to dump on the next two books.

Actually, the second book, Specimen Song, isn't that bad. I mostly wasn't happy with it because I picked out the murderer so easily. Basically, the murderer is the only named character who wasn't around in the first book. It was still atmospheric and I enjoyed the unusual setting: partly Montana, partly dense Canadian riverland. Main character Gabriel Du Pre is a French-Indian brand inspector who plays the fiddle and sometimes helps the sheriff out as a part-time deputy.

Then I got to the third book. I really hoped the plot would be better, and at first it seemed to be. Two extreme environmentalists are killed after cutting fences and shooting cattle, and Du Pre is depressed to think the murderer is probably someone he knows and likes--and someone he'll have to help arrest. Then more people are killed after environmentalists release wolves into the nearby mountains, and Du Pre is worried there's a serial killer around.

Unfortunately, the plot bogs down into a confusing mess. I've never read a murder mystery where, at the end of the book, I still wasn't clear on who the murderer was. It was that problem that has finished the series for me--I won't bother to read the next book--but I wasn't very happy with the writing either. The books are rather stylized and spare in style, but by the third book it was already starting to feel overdone. And on top of all that, I wasn't all that impressed by the anti-environmentalist message in the book, which bordered on the offensive at times.

It's disappointing that a series that started out so strong fell apart so quickly. I should have stopped reading after the first book.

Specimen Song B&N link (used book)
Wolf, No Wolf B&N link (used book)


Kelly Robinson said...

I remember thinking his books looked interesting at one point, but now I'm not sure why. This doesn't sound like my kind of mystery at all.

K.C. Shaw said...

I could be wrong, but I suspect you wouldn't like them. I was surprised I liked the first one so much.