The plotting of these long, interwoven vignettes is overwrought and hyperbolic: ""gothic"" seems merely a handy cover. A lovesick medical student from back East comes to a one-street Montana town to leave his frustrations behind. He establishes himself as a mortician, only to find that his predecessor had widely-known necrophiliac tastes; morticians, subsequently, aren't much loved around them parts. And some heavy irony is in store. The new mortician falls in love with a beautiful talented woman engaged to a super-macho cowboy, and when she gets deathly sick he nurses her back to health (almost) with medical skills and lovemaking. But then the lovemaking proves fatal, and our poor hero is doomed, a necrophiliac in spite of himself. Van Sickle then picks up the cowboy 40 years later sharing a winter range cabin with a young drifter. A grisly self-amputation caps this one--but here the author at last shows what he's capable of: a vivid sense of place, a rendering of a blizzard so real that you get cold in the lungs and blind in the eye from the whiteness. Anyone who writes this well can do better than ruffled, gory high-falutin'--and once first-novelist Van Sickle levels out and gets more comfortable, he's sure to produce something less hysterical and more satisfying.