The shooting of an inoffensive camper in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula brings a third case to Mercy Virdon, of the Division of Natural Resources, and her swain, sometime journalist Donal Fitzgerald (The Aluminum Hatch, 1998, etc.).
All the locals knew Charlie Orr, the 60-something retiree who returned to the Rainbow Run state forest each season to fish, smoke, read and take it slow. And if Charlie lived perhaps too much within himself to be widely beloved—except maybe by camp hostess Billie Berry—he certainly had no enemies. So why would someone unload both barrels of a shotgun into his tent late one night? Was his death the work of a random thrill-killer, or could Charlie himself have been the intended target after all? Charlie’s widow, Theona, seems equally unmoved by grief or anger, and Graham Underwood, the big-deal executive visiting from Ohio, evidently has nothing on his mind but getting his daughter Gwendolyn some proper fishing lessons. Rumors arise that Charlie’s death may have been linked to pot smoking, or to poaching, or to the library books he was reading, or to the disappearance of Alec Proffit, the camper from Vermont who vanished the night Charlie died. But none of these rumors has much weight behind it, and each does little more than sweep the preceding one away. The motive Fitzgerald eventually uncovers for Charlie’s murder is ingenious and convincing, but the real lure, apart from the hook for readers who are serious anglers, is the unruffled sense of small-town life uncomplicated by any particularly interesting individual characters.
Quirky, literate dialogue adorns a civilized entertainment in which very little actually happens.