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Tensions on the U.S.-Canadian border disrupt a neighborhood in Lynch’s entertaining second novel (The Highest Tide, 2005).

Only a ditch separates one part of British Columbia from Washington State; it’s narrow enough for prickly, left-wing Canadian Wayne Rousseau to exchange insults with his American neighbor, Norm Vanderkool. A retired professor with MS, Wayne makes use of a legal remedy: smoking cannabis. The more conventional Norm is a dairy farmer with sick cows and a wife losing her memory. Both men have interesting children. Madeline Rousseau, running wild since her mother’s death, has started growing bud indoors for Canadian kingpin Toby, but it’s her erstwhile school friend Brandon Vanderkool who’s the star of the show, towering over the other characters literally (he’s 6’8”) and figuratively. Dyslexic 23-year-old Brandon has a hard time with people but an amazing affinity for animals and birds, his passion. Pushed into joining the Border Patrol by Norm, he barely passed the test (he’s a lousy shot), but once on the job he’s a sensation. Starting with a spectacular flying tackle of two hapless border-crossers, Brandon makes bust after bust of illegals and drug smugglers, seemingly without effort. Lynch presents a three-ring circus. In ring number one, the BP agents. Number two, the Canadian growers and smugglers. In the third ring, the Americans on the border, mostly dairy farmers tempted by easy money for letting smugglers cross their property. The action (there’s plenty of it) is shot through with wry humor and intermittent suspense. Brandon remains an innocent, albeit “an innocent who’s bad for business,” as Toby says darkly. Guns are in evidence. Maddy deceives the trusting, lovestruck Brandon about her involvement. We seem headed for a major, possibly tragic confrontation, but it doesn’t happen, and the story slowly deflates.

Forget the shaky plot. What’s memorable is the masterful use of Brandon as a bridge between the human world, foolish and chaotic, and the more ordered universe of birds.

Pub Date: June 19th, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-307-27117-4
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2009


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