Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Vivid Setting Makes Slow-Building Murder Mystery Intriguing

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

On a peaceful autumn night, Ted Systead and his dad are camping in Montana's ruggedly beautiful Glacier National Park.  Encounters with wildlife are a possibility, of course, but one against which the men have taken every precaution.  They're both stunned, then, when a giant grizzly attacks their campsite.  Fourteen-year-old Ted freezes in terror as his father is dragged away and mauled to death.  It's a violent, tragic, and traumatic experience that will haunt him forever.  

Twenty-three years later, Ted is back in Glacier.  As a special agent for the National Park Service, he's been called to Montana to investigate a death with startling similarities to his father's.  Like Jonathan Systead, Victor Lance is dead from a vicious encounter with a bear.  The difference?  Lance, a 27-year-old druggie from Martin City, Montana, had been tied to a tree, presumably exposed to the park's dangers on purpose.  Who could have committed such a cold-hearted act?  However unsavory the man might have been, he didn't deserve to die so horrifically.  Or did he?  

Paired with Monty Harris, an unassuming Park police officer, Ted is tasked with finding Victor's killer.  Not an easy job, considering locals want nothing to do with a nosy outsider.  Ted's perseverance helps him peel back the shocking layers of a case that chills him to the bone.  It doesn't help that old memories are creeping in, throwing him off his game.  As he creeps closer to discovering Lance's killer, he's putting himself in the line of fire.  Will Ted, like his father before him, leave Glacier only in a body bag?  

Although The Wild Inside, a debut novel by Christine Carbo, is billed as a mystery/suspense, it's much more of the former than the latter.  If you're looking for a high-octane thriller, this might not be the book for you.  What it does have is a vivid, intriguing setting.  The surreal beauty of Glacier National Park comes alive under Carbo's hand, as does the unpredictable state of nature in general.  The other characters pale in comparison to the vibrant personality of the Park.  An introspective fella, Ted lives mostly inside his head; Monty does too, which makes them not the most dynamic pair.  Carbo's style is more tell than show, which also makes The Wild Inside feel overly long and a little dull.  Although I enjoyed the read overall, I never came to a point in the story when I couldn't have set the book down and walked away.  I definitely would have liked more suspense from this one, as well as characters who were at least as exciting as their surroundings.  Still, I'm interested to see where this series goes.  Even though the next installment is narrated by Monty, who's not the most lively of guys, I'll definitely be giving it a go.

(Readalikes:  The national park setting reminded me of Nevada Barr's Anna Pigeon mystery series)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for strong language, violence, blood/gore, and mature subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

2 comments:

  1. I have this secret loathing for bears. I know, weird, but I try to avoid books with them in it. Especially when they're mauling.

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  2. I prefer a little more suspense in these types of reads as well. I am glad it was good enough to continue with the series though!

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