Cold Country by Russell Rowland
Dzanc Books: 11/12/19
eBook review copy; 232 pages
Cold Country by Russell Rowland is a very highly recommended character study wrapped around a murder mystery.
In 1968 Tom Butcher is found
murdered one morning in the ranching community of Paradise Valley,
Montana. By all public accounts, Butcher was a boisterous, popular man,
although it seems more than one person may have had a reason to kill
him. Blame falls quickly on the new man, Carl Logan, who recently moved
with his family to the area to manage wealthy Peter
Kenwood’s ranch. The community is upset that long-time ranch hand
Lester Ruth wasn't given the job. It doesn't help that Carl's
ten-year-old son, Roger, is causing waves by standing up to the local
school bully. The investigation becomes even more complicated when it is
revealed to Junior Kirby,
a lifelong rancher and Butcher’s best friend, that Butcher had a
secret he had been hiding.
The writing is excellent. Rowland expertly captures the small town,
hard-working atmosphere of this ranching community, where everyone seems
to know everything about everyone else, and all the many grievances and
failings of others are not really forgotten. Lifelong friendships can
be a struggle at best when you have to trust your neighbors, even amid
the many reasons they might not be trustworthy. And that doesn't even
include the secrets people hide.
The murder mystery keeps the narrative moving along, but the real
exploration is the examination of the heart of the characters. Rowland
quickly establishes his characters in the setting and shows
their actions and inner thoughts, including members of the same family.
The people in Paradise Valley all have many differences that should pull
them apart, but they have learned to try and keep their mouths shut and
work together. Butcher was not as well-liked as it seems, but it is a
universal truth that it is easier for residents to point blame at the
new guy rather than examine their life-long neighbors. The murder
mystery is solved at the end, but the pleasure is in the journey.
My review copy was courtesy of Dzanc Books.