Monday, July 4, 2016

BADLANDS by Peter Bowen

Peter Bowen's Badlands has a different ending.

When a cult-like group buys the Eide ranch close to the badlands near Toussaint, Montana, they seem benign at first. Then seven of their members end up murdered.

The murders occur in various places a long way from Toussaint, but they coordinate with what is happening at the Eide's ranch.

To make things worse, the cult, led by a man called the White Priest, sells the ranch's cattle. They bring in buffalo. Buffalo are hard to control. They pose a risk to all the fences and cattle in the ranches around.

And cult members start trying to kill the badlands' wild horses (Gruillas). Gruillas go back to the time when the Spanish tried to occupy the area.

Metis fiddler Gabriel Du Pré can't take killing the horses. He risks his life to save them. Then he works with the FBI (three hilarious recurring characters) to try to find out what is happening at the ranch.

Du Pré goes to the holy man Benetsee for guidance. Like always, Du Pré sees in riddles. He knows he has a part in all this, but he doesn't know exactly what it is.

Along the way, Du Pré tries to extricate a woman and her children from the cult. He watches the suicide of the group who did the original killings, and all this leads to the strange ending of the book.

Bowen's Montana Mysteries always seem to tie in to the present. At one point,  Du Pré and one of the FBI agents Harvey "Weasel Fat" Wallace are talking about religious killings. Harvey says, "Yeah, things folks will do when they really believe."

I couldn't help but think about that quote in these weeks when we've had at least three religiously involved mass killings world-wide.

Badlands is different. Some may find the ending unsatisfactory. And, as always, you have to wade through the dialect and terse writing, something I especially enjoy.

If you like Peter Bowen's Montana Mysteries, you should like Badlands.

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