Grizzly bears, murder, mauling, and mayhem mix in Carbo’s debut novel.
Ted Systead’s past and present intersect in an unexpected—and chilling—manner against the incongruously gorgeous backdrop of Glacier National Park. When Systead was a kid, his father, a pathologist, was dragged off and killed by a grizzly bear in Glacier. Now, decades later, Systead is a homicide investigator for the Department of the Interior based out of Denver. When the body of drug user and general lowlife Victor Lance is found shredded by a park grizzly after having been secured to a tree, Systead must push back against his own demons to work the case. In the process, he reluctantly teams with Park Officer Monty Harris, who he suspects is little but a spy for his boss, Eugene Ford. But, as they work their ways through the people who populated Lance’s life (his mother, former girlfriend, and others), Systead gains a grudging respect for Monty and finds himself unraveling other peoples’ lives in order to get at the truth. Carbo likes detail and packs the book with trivia about the park and its wildlife inhabitants, which prove interesting. However, when it comes to literary restraint, the author comes up short, launching into exhaustive and ultimately extraneous detail about the characters and their lives, forcing readers to wade through a surfeit of description and a flood of characters. Although the writing is fine, the plotting isn’t electrifying and the story is not hypnotic enough to withstand the flood of information the author unleashes. By Page 50, she’s introduced more than 20 named characters, many of whom serve next to no purpose. In subsequent chapters, even more characters pop up, contributing nothing more than their presences to the unfolding plot.
While the park setting’s attractive and has potential, the excessive detail and avalanche of characters, combined with a protagonist who doesn’t seem all that competent, get in the way of narrative drive.