Friday, January 17, 2014

THUNDER HORSE by Peter Bowen

Peter Bowen's Thunder Horse (1998) is great reading.

Toussaint, Montana, Métis brand inspector, part-time deputy, and all-around character Gabriel Du Pré and his friend Bart find ancient human skeletons.

They also find a dinosaur (a Thunder Horse) tooth. Later, they investigate the murder of a crooked archaeologist.

At first, they suspect the Japanese entrepreneurs who have bought this property and hired Bart to build fish ponds on it. There is no way this isolated piece of Montana could be made into a thriving resort.

Then the whole story becomes more complicated.

As always, the ancient holy man Benetsee seems to know what is going on. He and his apprentice Pelon are all over the place, but Benetsee is as strange and elusive as always.

The DuPré books are wonderful. The continuing characters, Madelaine (DuPré's lover), Susan the bar owner and her husband the sheriff, Bart, Benetsee, and all the rest, live and breathe.

The land itself becomes a character in the book, a part of the plot. It is more that way in Thunder Horse than it is in some of the other books in the series. In this book, Du Pré literally goes back in history for thousands of years.

These are the most authentic-seeming western mysteries I have ever read. I never tire of them.


The West is gone, Du Pré,” said Bart. “It'll be a theme park.”
You guys are pussies,” said Madelaine. “Women been working three times hard as men since God screwed people up the first time.”
The day was clear and the sun made the deep snow on the peaks of the Wolfs [Wolf Mountains] white as hot flames. The High Plains rolled below them, off to the west, the horizon a good fifty miles away. To the south the horizon was the last line of hills before the Missouri.
It is the wolf who ranges far,” said Morgenstern. “A coyote lives and dies a few miles from where it was born.”
All I want, Gabriel, is to spend the rest of my life with the Horned Star People. There's never been anything like this. Nothing. They came in their boats through Hudson's Bay and up the Red River, they came here before there even was a Missouri River. All the others came down the Great North Trail, probably. Or maybe the Horned Star people were here and they intermarried . . . .

(As I understand it, the Métis are part European and part Native American ancestry. They are Roman Catholic.)

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