SPIRIT BEARS by Joe Gordon

SPIRIT BEARS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A harrowing suspense novel set in the remote reaches of a Colorado mountain range.

After a lifetime teaching at a small Southwestern college, Tommy Tulloch accepts an invitation to spend a year at the Lazy R, a ranch established in the 1880s by a hardened pioneer named Fisk. His only task is researching the history of the ranch. For a few days, the all-expenses-paid sabbatical proves idyllic. Tulloch takes walks into the surrounding mountain range, hobnobs with cowboys and ranch hands and dines on heaping plates of fresh grub. But when Tall Bear, a Ute activist, turns up dead–the corpse chewed up by a host of forest creatures–Tulloch’s world is thrown into chaos. He deftly peels back the layers of mystery surrounding the Lazy R and finds evidence of a battle between land developers, who are eager to use the ranch for a deluxe resort, and the Native Indians who have historical claim to the land. Trapped in the middle are Rupert Fisk, a descendent of the 19th-century pioneer, and his wife Mary, a well-known Chicago socialite. The Fisk Foundation is funding Tulloch’s sabbatical, but can the professor really trust the Fisks? And what about Ross Rhodes, who runs the ranch? Literature professor Gordon expertly unwinds the narrative on two planes, alternating between the frenetic search for the truth behind Tall Bear’s death and the story of the Lazy R, re-created from yellowed newspaper clippings and decades-old diaries. Fans of the late Tony Hillerman’s detective novels will find much to love in Spirit Bears. The author creates a fine sense of atmosphere, and although he occasionally runs out of adjectives worthy enough to describe the resplendent surroundings–there are only so many ways to say “snow”–he settles on a deeply alluring portrait of a wild, wild west.

An absorbing mystery full of bigger-than-life characters lovingly portrayed.

Pub Date: Feb. 28th, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-4196-8610-8
Program: Kirkus Indie
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