In the midst of a drought in Toussaint, Montana, Métis Indian tracker and cattle investigator Gabriel Du Pré learns that Maddy Collins has been killed—and goes looking for answers.
Du Pré suspects a pair of boys who, despite their good upbringing, have fallen in with a gang of crystal meth dealers. Not long after the murder, they vanish. As the town is threatened by a forest fire, Du Pré puts his own life at risk to hunt for the two young men, not knowing whether they’re alive or dead. But if the inferno reaches Toussaint, no one will be safe.
Ash Child is the 9th book in The Montana Mysteries Featuring Gabriel Du Pré series, but you may enjoy reading the series in any order.
About the Author
Following time at the University of Michigan and the University of Montana, he published his first novel, Yellowstone Kelly, in 1987. After two more novels featuring the real-life western hero, Bowen published Coyote Wind (1994), which introduced Gabriel Du Pré, a mixed-race lawman living in fictional Toussaint, Montana. He has written fifteen novels in the series, in which Du Pré gets tangled up in everything from cold-blooded murder to the hunt for rare fossils. Bowen continues to live and write in Livingston, Montana.
Peter Bowen (b. 1945) is an author best known for mystery novels set in the modern American West. When he was ten, Bowen’s family moved to Bozeman, Montana, where a paper route introduced him to the grizzled old cowboys who frequented a bar called The Oaks. Listening to their stories, some of which stretched back to the 1870s, Bowen found inspiration for his later fiction. Following time at the University of Michigan and the University of Montana, Bowen published his first novel, Yellowstone Kelly, in 1987. After two more novels featuring the real-life Western hero, Bowen published Coyote Wind (1994), which introduced Gabriel Du Pré, a mixed-race lawman living in fictional Toussaint, Montana. Bowen has written fourteen novels in the series, in which Du Pré gets tangled up in everything from cold-blooded murder to the hunt for rare fossils. Bowen continues to live and write in Livingston, Montana.
Read an Excerpt
A Gabriel Du Pré Mystery
By Peter Bowen
Copyright © 2002 Peter Bowen.
All rights reserved.
Du Pré was pissed off. He was in a hospital and he didn't like hospitals.
He looked at the bottle on the rolling rack and then at the tubes that dripped the antibiotics into veins in his left arm.
He glared at the peaks his toes made in the blue sheets. He pushed the covers back and swung his legs over the side of the bed. He stood up, put his left hand on the rolling rack, and walked out of his room and down the hall.
"Good morning," said the nurse at the station. She was busily filling out forms.
"Good morning," said Du Pré. "Can I maybe get my clothes, leave now?"
The nurse didn't look up from her records.
"Du Pré," she said, "quit whining."
"Yah," said Du Pré.
"It was the flat hands-down worst appendix seen here in a long, long time. You waited till it busted. Time the surgeon got in there, it was a mess. If you'd come in when it began to hurt, you'd've been home. Several days ago."
"Umph," said Du Pré.
"You cowboys," said the nurse, shutting one folder and opening another, "have the smarts of anvils. Make a good cowboy, you catch a sheep-herder and kick his brains out."
"Yah," said Du Pré.
"So why don't you go down to the kitchen and ask Isabel to make you some hot milk. It will help you sleep."
Hot milk, Du Pré thought. Jesus. Hot milk.
The nurse looked up.
"Look," she said, "you'll probably be able to go home the day after tomorrow. They won't be able to close up the wound until the infection is gone. You'll have to pack it, or have someone pack it for you. But the doctor'll let you go Thursday."
"Uh," said Du Pré.
A door banged. Boot heels sounded on the polished linoleum.
"Visitin' hours! Visitin' hours, you snipe-nosed pup! I came to see muh illegitimate son. Gab-reel Doo Pray. I am his dear ol' daddy, though it pains me to admit it. Now, outta my way 'fore I stuff that flashlight up yer ass."
The nurse looked at Du Pré.
"You have a visitor," she said. "Please go and see him. Tell Ron to come and see me."
Du Pré started to push the rolling rack toward the door.
"Don't forget the hot milk!" said the nurse, not looking up.
Du Pré pulled open the door.
Booger Tom was standing there, with his bony old finger in the chest of a young security guard who was backed against the wall.
"Old man," said Du Pré, "it is good to see you!"
"It's past visiting hours," said the kid, looking terrified.
"I'm gonna kill him," snarled Booger Tom, "I am. Goddamn government innerference ever' whar a man turns. Can't even go and see his bastard son!"
"Ron," said Du Pré, "the nurse, she want talk to you."
"I'll scalp yah!" said Booger Tom to the kid, who was moving very rapidly past Du Pré.
Du Pre' turned and led Booger Tom down the hall to his room. He went in and sat on the bed and pointed at the flowered-print chair.
"Jesus," said Booger Tom, "folks die in these damn places, ya know. Let's go."
"No," said Du Pré.
"All right," said Booger Tom. He lifted the huge book he was carrying. HOLY BIBLE.
Booger Tom flipped up a port on the spine and pulled out a little spigot, and he went to the sink and filled half a plastic glass with whiskey. He ran cold water in the glass. He handed it to Du Pré.
Du Pré swallowed it.
He handed the glass back.
Booger Tom mixed another. Another.
Du Pré finally sighed and sat back on the bed and pulled the rolling rack over so the needles in his arm wouldn't pull.
"These places ain't civilized," said Booger Tom. "They's deddy-cated to healin' the sick, and you'd think they'd be civilized about it."
Du Pré laughed.
"And I 'spect ya can't smoke, neither," said Booger Tom, "and screwin' is outta the question."
Du Pré laughed.
"No wonder folks die on the street," said Booger Tom. "Easy to see why they'd want to, been in a place like this."
"Yah," said Du Pré.
"So when's they lettin' you out?" said Booger Tom. He had a sack of Bull Durham in his hand. He fiddled out a paper with his fingers and rolled a smoke, one-handed. He licked the paper and put the cigarette in his mouth.
"Way I see it," he said, "I gave ya one a these they'd throw us both out of here."
Du Pré opened the drawer of the nightstand and took out a tin of snoose. He took a pinch and put it behind his lower lip.
Booger Tom scratched a kitchen match on the seat of his canvas pants and the flame flared and he touched the end of the cigarette with it.
A couple of quarts of water flew in the door and soused Booger Tom.
He sat there for a moment, blinking, while water ran off his face and his hat.
The cigarette was a sodden mess.
Booger Tom looked at the door.
"I don't care if you want to read the Bible," said the nurse. "Read the Bible all night. Pray quietly. But you cannot smoke in here, you old son of a bitch, and if you want to be wearing your ass for a hat just try that again."
"Yes, ma'am," said Booger Tom.
"Praise Jesus!" said the nurse. Her shoes squeaked a little on the waxed floor as she went back to her station.
Du Pré looked at his friend.
"You are wet," he said. "There are towels in the bathroom."
"That's all right," said Booger Tom, "I been wetter'n this a lot. She is dead set against tobacco, and she has made her point."
Booger Tom held up the Bible and Du Pré nodded.
He made Du Pré another drink. Du Pré gave him the tin of snoose.
"I ain't seen tin ones of these in thirty year," said Booger Tom. "Where'd you find it?"
Du Pré smiled.
"Catfoot chewed it," he said. "Me, I found couple hundred of these, the tool shed."
Booger Tom nodded.
"Madelaine here?" he said.
"Visiting hours," said Du Pré. "She got sick aunt, Billings, she is there, too."
Booger Tom nodded.
"Everybody sends their best," said the old man.
Du Pré looked at the Bible.
"Bart done give me that," said Booger Tom. "Said he had it made long time ago and forgot to throw it out."
Du Pré laughed.
Bart Fascelli, drunk for years, bad drunk, been dry a long time now. But he was a good friend.
"I sorta thought you'd be about ready to get the hell out of here," said Booger Tom, "so I just got in the truck and come down. When are they springin' you?"
"Thursday," said Du Pré.
"A bad appendix," said Booger Tom. "I still got mine."
"Good," said Du Pré.
Booger Tom chewed thoughtfully.
He looked at the ceiling.
"Somebody done killed Maddy Collins," he said.
Du Pré sat up.
Maddy Collins was a nice addled old lady who lived a mile or so outside Toussaint. She had been in her little red house as long as Du Pré could remember. She didn't come to church or to town much. She worked in her flower beds. Beautiful flowers. She had a good water right and she'd kept it.
"Benny looked it over, called the State Police come look, they couldn't find nothin'."
Du Pré shook his head.
"Killed her in her house," said Booger Tom. "Beat her head in with a hatchet."
"Jesus," said Du Pré.
"Old Maddy Collins," said Booger Tom. "I done knowed her when she was a damn pretty woman."
Du Pré nodded.
"Enough," said the nurse from the doorway.
Booger Tom got up. He had put the big Bible in the closet, on the bottom.
"See you soon," he said.
The nurse smiled at Du Pré.
Booger Tom walked out and she switched off the light.
Excerpted from Ash Child by Peter Bowen. Copyright © 2002 by Peter Bowen. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Gabriel Du Pre is in the hospital recovering from a burst appendix when he hears the news that somebody killed Maddy Collins. Somebody smashed her head in with a hatchet and left, leaving the front door open. There is no obvious motive for the seventy eight-year old woman¿s death since she was a bit of a recluse and never bothered anyone. When Du Pre leaves the hospital, he camps out in the back of Maddy¿s house, hoping that the perp will return to the scene of the crime. He doesn¿t find a killer but he does notice two seventeen year olds who are curious about the crime scenes. He lets them go and the next thing he knows he¿s back in the hospital because somebody banged him pretty badly on the head. Somebody burns down Maddy¿s house and the fire spreads to the nearby Wolf Mountains where the bodies of the two teens seen at Maddy¿s now are discovered with bullets in their bodies. Gabriel is determined to flush out the person who has wrecked such havoc on his little Montana town. Peter Bowen does for Montana what Tony Hillerman does for New Mexico. His regional mysteries, starring the unique character Gabriel Du Pre, are picturesque, totally absorbing and utterly charming. The author is so descriptive that one can picture the town of Toussaint in the mind¿s eye. Anyone who has not read a ¿Gabriel Do Pre mystery is missing out on something special. Harriet Klausner
I am a fan of Peter Bowen's Montana Mysteries, with (now retired) brand inspector and Metis musician Gabriel du Pre and his community. Du Pre is a simple man in the best sense of the word – the best and quickest way to get to the heart of a situation (or of a person) is to look past the extraneous stuff and concentrate on the basics. In Ash Child, du Pre must deal with the driest weather conditions that his community has faced in 100 years, and with the inevitable wildfires that come with it. He must also deal with some unexplained deaths, including an elderly woman on the edges of the community and of a pair of high school sweethearts who will never know if their relationship would last past graduation. Who is killing these people – is it an outsider, or a local, or is it the result of multiple murders for multiple causes? And just how IS the government's efforts to fight the wildfires going, and will it interfere with the murder investigation? Not my favorite book in the series to date – but close. Highly recommended. RATING: 5 stars.