Monday, November 22, 2010

An Unfortunate Prairie Occurrence

By Jamie Harrison

Jules Clement, a small town sheriff in Montana, is having a pretty rough autumn. It all started with a serial rapist in town, followed by the discovery of the old buried bones of a man on an island in the river and, soon after, the supposed suicide of an elderly man named Nestor, whose death, upon closer investigation, was actually a murder staged to look like a suicide. So Jules has a lot on his plate. And to add to his misery, it seems a lot of the old people in Jules' life knew the dead man from the island, whose death dated back to the 1930s, but they are all refusing to admit any knowing anything about it, including Jules' uncle Joseph.
As Jules' digs further into both the matter of the island bones and of Nestor's murder, it becomes clear there is a definite connection between the two events, but no matter how he presses, Jules just can't get any one who was around then to tell him the truth. Even when a third dead body turns up in an old trunk, also dating from the 1930s, the old people refuse to talk about it. Meanwhile, the rapist is attacking more women and becoming even more violent. As Jules' investigation proceeds, it looks as if the old people in town are involved in a conspiracy of murder and silence and that events from the past are still affecting people in the present, including some of the most important citizens in their small community.

For some reason, this story never really captured my attention. I found the main character, Jules, unappealing, cold and hostile. I really did not understand the reluctance of the old women to talk about the events of the 1930s that lead to the death of the man whose bones were found on the island. If just one of them had been open about it, the whole mystery could have been figured out much sooner. It didn't really make much sense, except as a way of making the mystery last longer than it should. But I think my main problem with the story was Jules, who I never really warmed up to. I just didn't like him. That kind of spoiled the whole story.

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