The creator of the Grady Service Woods Cop adventures (Strike Dog, 2007, etc.) launches a new series that follows the adventures of another Upper Michigan game warden a century earlier.
Col. Theodore Roosevelt values the men who follow him and inspires them in turn to fierce loyalty. So when the old Rough Rider asks trapper Luther Bapcat, who followed him up San Juan Hill 15 years earlier, to become Deputy Game, Fish and Forestry Warden for Houghton and Keweenaw Counties, there’s no way Lute can refuse. Partnering with bounty hunter Pinkhus Sergeyevich Zakov, he heads to his new headquarters in Ahmeek and immediately realizes there’s a lot more to his job than protecting fish, game and forests. The copper miners of the Upper Peninsula are preparing to strike, and Capt. Madog Hedyn, the hard-nosed boss of the Delaware mine, has hired gunslingers to shoot the native deer and leave the carcasses to rot in order to deprive the strikers of food that might help them through the winter. Even though Lute once worked in the mines himself, it’s hard to find anyone to root for in the free-for-all that develops. The mine bosses are ruthless, the strikers surly, the local law clearly in the bosses’ pockets. Rumor has it that the Black Hand is involved, and Zakov is always happy to explain how things are no better here than in Russia. Even Lute’s lover, lusty dry-goods widow Jaquelle Frei, is said to be involved in the flesh trade, as a wholesale supplier of all the necessary material, including human material. The inevitable murders, when they finally begin, are almost incidental to a doomy tale that ends with a calamity that claims 73 lives in one fell swoop.
Heywood’s dialogue-driven story, which manages to be both brisk and lumbering, reads less like a self-contained tale than the opening salvo in an ongoing saga—which presumably is just the idea.