When Gabriel Du Pré's precocious granddaughter, Pallas, returns from her studies in Washington, D.C., the entire clan in Toussaint, Montana, is happy to see her. Except Du Pré, that is, because the crotchety old fiddlin' cowboy knows that where Pallas goes, trouble is likely to follow.
A van full of praying, protesting fundamentalist Christians has arrived in Toussaint at just about the same time. A young soldier follows, just back from Iraq, missing a leg, an eye, and his grip on reality. Du Pré suspects that he's going to have his hands full for the foreseeable future.
Graffiti appears on the door of clumsy Father Van Den Heuvel's church, and a cryptic phone call from a missing girl causes concern in town. When a confluence of these strange events and even stranger people threatens problems that even laid-back Du Pré can't ignore, another quirky, compelling, and purely enjoyable mystery unfolds in Peter Bowen's Montana, a land trouble tends to visit often, with unpredictable but fiercely entertaining results.
About the Author
Peter Bowen, a Montanan, writes of the West. Cowboy, hunting and fishing guide, folksinger, poet, essayist, and novelist, he's written the picaresque Yellowstone Kelly historical novels, humor columns and essays on blood sport as Coyote Jack, and the Gabriel Du Pré mysteries, in part because "the Métis are a great people, a wonderful people, and not many Americans know anything about them."
Read an Excerpt
Du Pré looked east. The sky was a patchwork of small fluffy clouds and the air was still. The clouds hung like balloons. A big jet roared down the runway and lifted off, the thunder of its engines faded. Soon it was just a silver speck far to the west.
The little white jet sailed in, almost silently, and the pilot reversed the engines and slowed it, then turned toward the private hangar.
"I bet she is six inches taller," said Madelaine.
Du Pré shook his head.
"Three," he said. "Bad air stunt her."
The door opened down and became a stair. A duffel bag was tossed out on the asphalt, then a backpack, and finally Pallas came down the steps carrying two suitcases.
Du Pré walked to her, Madelaine hooting behind him.
"It is too six!" she said.
Du Pré looked at his granddaughter.
"You are taller," he said.
"Yes," said Pallas. "I am taller than Jacqueline, she will not like that."
Du Pré picked up the dufflebag and the backpack and he and Pallas walked to Madelaine, and Pallas put the suitcases down and she kissed Madelaine and then she kissed Du Pré.
"We got one errand," said Madelaine, "then we go home."
"Good," said Pallas. "I miss them. Few days I will not miss them and be glad to go back, but for now I miss them."
They walked to the big SUV, a dark green one, and put Pallas's luggage in the second seat.
Then they got in and Du Pré drove to the box store. They bought a thousand dollars' worth of groceries, household supplies, tools, and odds and ends.
The store was busy. After Du Pré paid, they wheeled the three grocery carts and the big flat cart out to the SUV.
"Never get it all in," said Pallas.
"Then you take the bus," said Du Pré.
"Maybe we strap things on the roof," said Pallas.
Du Pré looked at her.
"No, Grandpa," said Pallas. "Not me."
They stacked and tucked and shoved and Pallas cursed fluently.
"You," said Madelaine, "watch your mouth, you ride on the roof, Pallas."
"I learn the best words from you," said Pallas.
Du Pré turned away to laugh.
They got in and Du Pré got on the highway east. They were soon out of Billings, and they passed the highway that went south to the Crow Reservation and on to Denver.
"I have never been to Little Big Horn," said Pallas.
"Not much to see," said Madelaine. "Looks like Montana, Wyoming, hills, grass, but it don't feel sad like the Marias or other places...."
Other massacres, Du Pré thought, only then it was the Indians being slaughtered.
Me, I go to the Little Big Horn twice and I can't hear them there like I can other places.
Voices behind the wind.
"What you hear when you are there, Du Pré?" said Madelaine.
Du Pré shook his head.
"Horses maybe," he said. "I don't know."
Madelaine turned to look at Pallas crouched under a rampart of stuff that was piled on the seat and on top of the backrests.
"You are getting crap you are an Indian?" said Madelaine. "You are some Indian but French and Scot, too."
"Everybody likes Indians," said Pallas. "No, I just get dumb questions."
"Oh," said Madelaine. "Them."
"How is Chappie doing?" said Pallas.
"He is OK," said Madelaine. "Leg works pretty good. He has lots of colds."
"He will be around now?" said Pallas. "Your other kids don't come back here."
"They will come back," said Madelaine. "Just the lives they pick are far away."
Du Pré grunted.
Madelaine have four kids, two in the military, one in Africa, working for an oil company, one in Chicago, studying art.
Chappie is in Iraq. Bomb take off his leg and put out his left eye.
So he is retired from military.
Coughs a lot.
"So," said Pallas, "I have a month now. They tell me I have to wait until August to come, but I say no, I have to go now, have ceremonies to perform. Then they are able to find out I don't have to stay until August."
Du Pré and Madelaine laughed.
"Maybe we send you back with a warpole," said Madelaine. "Hang a bunch of scalps on it."
"Yeah," said Pallas, "that would be what they all call awesome. They use awesome when they mean good and impacts when they mean effects."
Du Pré laughed.
Pallas she can talk like some East Coast educated person, Du Pré thought. I just heard it.
"So it is all right?" said Madelaine.
"Maria come for a week," she said. "From England, and I am so very homesick. They don't got mountains there and they got all these people. Pile in one place they would be a ver' big mountain, and after she is there a while I cry some and she says, well, get all you can and you can go back but not until you are done."
"She is your aunt," said Madelaine. "You listen to her."
"Sure," said Pallas. "She goes through a long argument, wins it because I am not talking back, and then she says she will break my nose if I quit."
"She will break your nose," said Du Pré. "That Maria keeps promises."
Du Pré fished the silver flask out of the console and he popped the top open and he drank.
He offered it to Madelaine.
She shook her head.
"What about me?" said Pallas.
"You are too young, drink whiskey," said Du Pré.
"Good," said Pallas. "I will take drugs then."
"Oh, crap," said Madelaine, fishing a bottle of pink wine out of the cooler at her feet. "Have some of my pink wine and leave your grandfather's whiskey alone."
"Now it is illegal to have booze in a car," said Pallas.
"Yah," said Du Pré.
"Montana, they are going to stop people driving with a drink," said Pallas. "How do they think they will do that without lots of people getting shot?"
"Federal government," said Du Pré.
"Oh," said Pallas. "Them."
"They say they don't give Montana highway money if Montana don't stop people who drink, go down the road," said Du Pré.
"So," said Pallas, "this government, one in Helena, passes laws they like in that Washington and then they forget them like the speed limit."
"Yah," said Du Pré.
"Remember when Jacqueline throws Raymond's piss, hits the Highway Patrol car?" said Pallas.
"Yah," said Du Pré.
"You think they would learn," said Pallas.
"No," said Du Pré, "they don't learn."
They drove on, silent, while Madelaine and Pallas drank pink fizzy wine and Du Pré smoked.
"Pret' soon you can't smoke in car, either," said Pallas.
"Yah," said Du Pré.
"Tobacco got lots of taxes now," said Pallas.
"Not where I get it," said Du Pré.
"Oh," said Pallas. "That is interesting."
"Crow come through often," said Du Pré. "They buy in North Carolina and they drive it back here. They say that anyway."
"Ah," said Pallas.
"You are going to give your grandfather crap about smoking?" said Madelaine.
"Sure," said Pallas. "He don't give me one I will."
"You are too young," said Madelaine.
Pallas pulled out a cigarette from her purse and she lit it.
Du Pré laughed.
"Don't they arrest you, Maryland, you smoke you are fifteen?" said Madelaine.
"Do if they catch you," said Madelaine. "I live in this house, other kids my age, all of us smart. We don't have a lot of trouble."
Du Pré snorted.
"Pissants," he said. "Biggest political party."
"Hey," said Pallas, "there is a coyote...," and she stared out the window.
Du Pré glanced to his right.
The coyote was trotting along, sliding through the sagebrush.
A large bird flew up and the coyote leaped up and caught it.
"Sage grouse," said Pallas.
"They are pret' dumb," said Du Pré.
They came to the road north. Du Pré took the exit and then they crossed over the Interstate. He accelerated to about a hundred.
"Ah," said Pallas, "I am home."
The road was an empty gray ribbon winding north over the rolling yellow hills.
"They got pilots now watching for people like you," said Madelaine.
"Yah," said Du Pré, "they don't bother me."
The big SUV shot down the road.
Du Pré slowed when he came up to a hilltop. You never knew when a rancher hauling a piece of equipment at ten miles an hour might be just out of sight.
The puff clouds hung motionless.
"Those are Lucky Strikes?" said Madelaine to Pallas.
"Sure," said Pallas. "You want me to smoke something else?"
"Give me one," said Madelaine.
"I have not seen Chappie for maybe ten years?" said Pallas.
"Yah," said Du Pré.
"It is too bad," said Pallas. "I think all that Iraq business won't work out well at all."
Copyright © 2006 by Peter Bowen
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
As always enjoyed.
This is a serial novel. I was not in tune with the characters and their relationships. It was confusing at times determining who, what and where. I was put off by the mix of colloquial language and a faux French Canadian "accent". The interchange between characters does not "flow" and seems forced at times. It may be the e-book translation, but everytime Du Pre goes into the saloon, he is given a "ditch" to drink. This was very off putting. This will be my one and only read of Peter Bowen.
Métis Indian Gabriel Du Pre is happy his granddaughter Pallas is home even for a short visit while on hiatus from her studies in DC. Also back in Montana is Chappie, the son of Gabriel¿s friend. The lad lost a leg, an eye, and a wife while serving in Iraq Du Pre thinks the veteran lost his mind too. --- While the family reunions are going on, Pastor Flowers, a fundamentalist from Texas, and his extended family move into the area. Not long afterward, a young girl calls the cops asking for help as she is a runaway, but insists if they find her they will kill her. At the same time graffiti criticizing the local church ministered by Father Van den Huevel appears on the walls of that facility. As Du Pre, in between shots of whiskey and smoking his rolled cigarettes, and others search for the missing girl that he believes connects to the zealous religious fundamentalists who violently attack others with their my way is the only way theme. --- Du Pre¿s latest Montana tale is a terrific thriller, but it is the tons of sidebars that reflect on many of today¿s issues such as the health of returning veterans from Iraq, a slowly dying small town, and religious fundamentalism that make the story line fascinating. For instance, the impact of real sacrifice (not BuSh claims of Americans giving up so much to support the war) on a solider in which the government fails to pay for an artificial leg ¿ someone has to fund the tax cuts. Peter Bowen is at his best as he NAILS down much of what disturbs Americans with Du Pre¿s delightful thirteenth Big Sky thriller. --- Harriet Klausner
Gabriel du Pre is happy with Madelyn, but he is disturbed by ignorant religious zealots who paint the Star of David on the Father Van Den Heuvel's church door. Not finding a girl who calls for help before she is found nude and dead on the side of a road disturbs him more. Times are hard in Toussaint, Montana, and now times are worse. The middle school science teacher is threatened and almost quits. Chappie, Madelyn's Iraq War veteran son, helps du Pre with Father Van Den Heuvel and the science teacher. He also identifies the runaway girl who won't speak. Everyone knows who her parents are, the preacher and his wife from Texas, but the girl is terrified, so Madelyn takes her to the hospital in Billings. As Du Pre unravels the mystery and murder, Bowen touches on the many current issues that trouble Americans today: religious fanaticism of all ilks, dying small towns, child abuse, bigotry, and hypocrisy. This is a rich American tale told in a sparse, western Du Pre style. I'm waiting for more Du Pre!