Thursday, January 21, 2016

SPECIMEN SONG by Peter Bowen

In Peter Bowen's Specimen Song (1995), Gabriel Du Pré sets himself up as a decoy.

A serial murderer kills several Cree women including two children.

Du Pré takes on the murderer, not by working through clues or events, but through his more native instincts.

At one point, Du Pré says, "I know that I know the killer. I know him if I see him. I will know him when he moves. I won't till then. It is many things. When you go to track something, you are not just looking for footprints or the marks of hooves. You look at the country and see what isn't right about it, something; sometimes you stare for an hour without moving. You try to see everything."

In other words, this is a different kind of book. The shaman Benetsee guides Du Pré. Friends like his rich friend Bart (and Bart's lover Michelle) support him. Du Pré's own instincts lead him to the murderer. And Du Pré's actions makes his life into the sort of song he sings about his ancestors.

Along the way, friends and family help. Du Pré's lover Madeline gives him strength. Du Pré's daughter Maria plays a startling part in the inevitable conclusion.

Specimen Song begins with Du Pré fiddling at a contest in Washington D.C. as the killer watches him.

Du Pré goes on two canoe trips, historical re-creations of his ancestors' journeys to and from Canada and protests at how development is changing the land.

The book is strongly rooted in history and in the land.

For me, there are no books like the Gabriel Du Pré books. The Métis history, the detailed descriptions of Montana and other places, the wonderful characters, and the terse writing all work together to make good reading.


Kent Morgan said...

This may be my favourite book in the series and I've read them all. Too bad the series ended.

Joe Barone said...

Thanks for the comment. I love this series. For some reason, back when they were being published, I missed this one. Now I am trying to read through them in order.

Mathew Paust said...

New to me, but sounds intriguing. Sort of the predecessor to today's FBI profilers.

Joe Barone said...

Matthew, The whole process does involve patient attention to detail.