DEAD BALANCE by Gary Wayne Clark


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A crime novel set in the Colorado backcountry, mixing gritty suspense, supernatural horror, and Native American folklore.

Two hikers discover pieces of a dead body strewn around a snow-swept trail near the tourist town of Deadraven, Colorado. A disabled veteran nicknamed Radio monitors the report from his mountain cabin on a police scanner, except he learns about the grisly find before it actually happens. Logan Lone Bear Tuu’awta, newly returned to his hometown and interning with the local police, discovers the tracks of a large bear at the crime scene. He can also sense something else—a supernatural presence tied to his past. With this mix of horror, mystery, and the unexplained, Clark (The Devolution Chronicles: Rise of the Chimera, 2011, etc.) builds an intriguing setup and a diverse cast of characters. The bodies soon start piling up, with Radio providing Logan advance notice of new deaths. Along with his childhood friend Raven and Sheriff Billie Sue Martin, Logan must unravel the complicated mystery and track down the man-eating bear, which might be an invader from the spirit world. However, as the mystery progresses, the plot begins to get muddy. “Believe, and then you will see,” Ten Bears, a Medicine Man, tells Logan. But for readers unfamiliar with Native American mythology, additional explanation is needed to believe in Logan’s spiritual powers, which guide him in solving the mystery. Deeper, more developed back story early on would flesh out these intriguing characters as well. For example, what exactly happened to Logan in the 10 years he’s been gone from his hometown, and why did he decide to return? What in the sheriff’s checkered past has put her under the thumb of town leaders? And the climactic confrontation with the bear seems to come too soon. Without more information about past events, it’s difficult to make sense of Logan’s dreamlike confrontation with the bear. The extended explanation that follows deflates the fight scene’s action-packed punch.

A promising start to what could be a fresh paranormal-crime series, if plotting and characterization improve.

Pub Date: Jan. 6th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0985343859
Page count: 286pp
Publisher: Self
Program: Kirkus Indie
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