Sunday, August 21, 2016

STEWBALL by Peter Bowen

"Benetsee," said Du Pré, "him not a comfortable person."

In Peter Bowen's Stewball, the old shaman Benetsee takes on a different role.

Previously Benetsee had been Du Pré's guide. Benetsee gave Du Pré the vision, the knowledge he needed, to survive.

Later, Benetsee's magic became more obvious. His actions hinted at his power.

But this time, Benetsee goes to war.

Bowen's Montana Mysteries almost always have to do with current events. In Stewball, Du Pré takes on a right-wing militia group. They use backwoods horse races to launder drug and crime money. They have killed an FBI informant who happens to be Du Pré's Aunt Pauline's husband.

Du Pré works with the FBI to get a beautiful black racehorse, Stewball. Named after a famous British racehorse, Stewball is special.

Only Du Pré's fourteen-year-old granddaughter Lourdes can ride the horse, so Lourdes goes to the races too. Du Pré puts her life at risk to seek revenge.

Bart's ranch hand Booger Tom takes on the role of a rich racehorse owner. Du Pré is his second-rate sidekick. Lourdes is their jockey. And all the time Benetsee hovers in the background.

You don't take on Benetsee, even with a dangerous WWII airplane, a rare well-armed fighter.

Stewball portrays the right-wing militia as especially dangerous. Du Pré and Booger Tom are clear that they don't love everything about the government, but they see the right-wing militias as a greater danger. (If that is a theme that bothers you, you are forewarned.)

Stewball is a wonderful book. I squirmed at the use of a fourteen-year-old girl to help bring revenge. But everyone in the story (including Lourdes) agrees to it, and I could believe they would.

For me, there is something special about Peter Bowen's Montana Mysteries, and this was one of the best of them.

To learn more about the Métis, you might want to look at my comments on earlier Montana Mysteries listed in the "Joe's Reading Lists" column at the right.

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