A madcap debut thriller involving murder, mayhem, and endearing, macho heroes.
Chief of Police Jackpine Keating senses that something unusual and nefarious is happening in and around his bucolic backwoods town in northwestern Ontario. Two suspicious, fatal accidents and an improbable suicide lead him to seek the advice of his longtime friend Alistair Boone. Together, they try to unravel an evil conspiracy that has enveloped the recently sold Blackbear Point Lodge. Koski’s posthumous novel introduces two larger-than-life heroes—one, a rugged outdoorsman and former hockey celebrity; the other, a successful Manhattan businessman and gourmand. The story—part police procedural, part wilderness adventure—shows sparks of what might have become a promising new career for the author, who was a former fishing guide and corporate executive. The mystery itself isn’t that complex, but the tangle of quirky primary and secondary characters—such as Deputy “Big” Paul Desroches, who carries his 250 pounds on a 5-foot-10-inch frame and can lift two perpetrators in the air simultaneously—adds an engaging charm. The narrative is replete with action and in-the-moment wilderness survival tidbits as the good guys chase the bad guys, and vice versa, through the inhospitable Canadian bush. (If you’re going to swim in a frigid lake, for example, it’s best to coat yourself with rendered fat from a recently killed bear.) For the most part, the narrative flows smoothly, comfortably alternating between conviviality and tension. But one quirk often breaks the rhythm: parenthetical asides. At one point, for example, Koski writes, “Boone fished hard (like he lived)”; in another, the author pens, “his lungs were burning (in a request for more air).”
An enjoyable escape well-suited to a couple of evenings by the fire or days on the beach.