A tenth excursion to Toussaint, Montana (Ash Child, 2002, etc.), shows cattle ranchers barely scraping by and part-time sleuth and fiddler and full-time drinker Gabriel Du Pré still flummoxed by Pallas, his precocious granddaughter. The plot he finds himself in is, even by Bowen’s standards, wispy enough for a herd of cattle to amble through. When the Eide family sell their acreage to the Host of Yahweh, a California cult headed up by the rarely seen White Priest, the locals are upset, especially when the cult fences in the property, hauls in buffalo to graze, and erects accommodations for 300. Then comes news that seven former cultist now living across the country have each died of a gunshot wound at precisely 8 p.m. Investigating FBI agents Pidgeon and Ripper, mindful of Waco and its aftermath, take a back seat to Du Pré, who snipes at cult members shooting wild horses, tries to rescue a fleeing cult woman (who shoots herself rather than be retaken), and locates a gold mine on the Eide property abandoned since the days of the conquistadors. When 11 more cult women shoot themselves, everything comes to a standstill. Eventually, Du Pré survives a harrowing encounter with those buffalo, rescues his chum Bart, and learns that he knows nothing about the cult’s motives and isn’t likely to find out much more.
Loose ends bounce around like tumbleweed, and readers might wish they had Du Pré’s cigarette-bumming girlfriend Madelaine’s ability to read his mind. Atmospheric stuff, but definitely not for fans of linear plotting.