THE MELANCHOLY HOWL by Mark Stevens

THE MELANCHOLY HOWL

From the "Allison Coil Mystery " series
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KIRKUS REVIEW

In this fifth installment of a thriller series, a Colorado hunting guide and sleuth searches for a missing friend and contends with homicidal smugglers.

While on horseback in the Flat Tops Wilderness, guide Allison Coil stumbles on a man tied to a tree. Nearby is the carcass of a deer that someone has shot out of season and inexplicably left behind. The man won’t tell her anything, other than claiming he and some unnamed others survived a plane crash. She leaves him there and returns with local authorities, only to discover the man gone. The group, however, witnesses a low-flying plane pass by, and Allison follows it. The plane is heading in the same direction as a double set of footprints near the tree. Soon joined by her boyfriend, Colin McKee, Allison also searches for her friend Devo, who leads a tribe of devolutionists and has recently vanished. Meanwhile, Allison’s best friend, Trudy Heath, runs into unexpected trouble while shooting a TV pilot with Sam Shelton, an ex-rock star-turned-tomato farmer. And Trudy’s reporter boyfriend, Duncan Bloom, hopes to quash his debt by investing in marijuana, a risky endeavor even with pot now legalized in Colorado. But the greatest threat for Allison and her friends may be the murderous individuals interested in whatever the planes were hauling. Though not all of the subplots in the novel merge, Stevens’ (Lake of Fire, 2015, etc.) story is cohesive. Trudy, for example, while entangled with Sam separately, lends Allison a helping hand by gathering information from Devo’s sister-in-law. There are a few convincing twists, most notably the unraveling of a conspiracy and the surprising names involved. Nevertheless, the author heightens suspense with the early unmasking of a particularly brutal villain. The brisk narrative is bolstered by stellar dialogue that characters bounce back and forth. In one exchange, Trudy says humans are “dumb animals.” When Sam counters with “smart enough to distill whiskey, make beer, refine coca leaves and figure out cannabis,” Trudy simply reiterates: “Because we’re animals.”

A smart and indelible crime tale with skillfully interwoven storylines.

Pub Date: Oct. 22nd, 2018
Page count: 314pp
Publisher: Third Line Press
Program: Kirkus Indie
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