The Dog is in Livingston, Montana, daydreaming about fishing the Stone and, as usual, subsisting on Swisher Sweets, vodka-Tang, and the hope that pretending to forget will be enough.
He's forged a few tenuous friendships, and now finds himself watching from the bank as troubled local girl Jesse Ringer leads D'Ontario Sneed into the swift current of young love. It's sweet, really . . . but some of the locals object to the relationship on the basis of Sneed's skin color.
Then the unthinkable: vibrant, wild Jesse is found shot in the head, and Sneed is passed out in her car, gun beside him, window seams taped, and engine running. Sneed is hospitalized for severe carbon monoxide poisoning and can't string together a sentence to defend himself, so it falls to the Dog.
If only the Dog could run from his life without ending up in the tangle and snarl of the lives of others. A man who wants to lose himself in the current must be careful of his backcast; it'll always keep him tethered to a life he's trying to forget.
At the outset of Galligan's stunning third Montana-set fly-fishing mystery (after 2005's The Blood Knot), Ned "Dog" Oglivie, a self-described "traveling drunk" and "trout hound" who lives out of his asthmatic 1984 Cruise Master RV, has befriended a jailed bull rider's daughter, Jesse Ringer, and her black boyfriend, D'Ontario Sneed. Then, off a mountain road outside Livingston, soon after an ugly encounter with skinheads, Dog finds Jesse shot to death on the ground and Sneed unconscious in Jesse's sealed car, nearly dead of carbon monoxide poisoning. Sneed's earthy mother, Aretha, supplies Dog with comfort and common sense as he seeks to prove Sneed didn't murder Jesse. With a plot as entangled as a drunkard's fishing line, this Big Sky excursion into the wilds of human frailty deftly and surely snags the imagination. The ending offers just a hint, elusive as that legendary brown trout of fishermen's dreams, of redemption for Galligan's beguiling antihero.