A half-Indian, half-French deputy with “a shrewd mind and wry sense of humor” investigates a case of homicide on the range (The New York Times Book Review).
Two men have been cutting fences at the ranches of Toussaint, Montana, loosing thousands of dollars’ worth of cattle to use as target practice for their .22 rifles. Are they thieves? Pranksters? Local cattle inspector and sometime deputy Gabriel Du Pré guesses they’re environmentalists, agitating for the reintroduction of native wolves to Montana’s high plains. Du Pré knows the perpetrators are trying to send a message to the ranchers of eastern Montana—he also has a hunch they’re already dead.
When the activists are indeed found shot to death, Du Pré must figure out who used them for target practice. The FBI descends, but their agents are as clueless in this territory as the hapless victims were. Clearly, one of Toussaint’s citizens committed this crime, killing to protect the traditional way of ranching life, a loyalty Du Pré shares. But if anyone’s going to arrest his people, it will be the cattle inspector himself . . .
Wolf, No Wolf is the third in “a wonderfully eclectic and enjoyable series of interest to western crime readers, especially those favoring Montana authors C. J. Box, Craig Johnson, and Keith McCafferty as well as fans of the Hillermans” (Booklist).
Wolf, No Wolf is the 3rd book in The Montana Mysteries Featuring Gabriel Du Pré series, but you may enjoy reading the series in any order.
A careful and sympathetic reading of this third in Bowen's original yet uneven Gabriel Du Pre series (after Coyote Wind and Specimen Song) may bring small rewards. On the other hand, traditional mystery fans will wish that Bowen had imposed a tighter sense of order on the seemingly random body count draped across this loose narrative. Du Pre, a Metis Indian, talks somewhere between Tonto and Justin Wilson on PBS, plays a mean Cajun fiddle and occasionally takes on the mantle of sheriff's deputy in rural Montana. The area is experiencing growing pains as New Agers and yuppies come prospecting for meaning in the landscape. Environmentalists clash with ranchers, people are murdered, news cameras arrive and the FBI sticks its big federal nose into an area notorious for its suspicions of big government. Du Pre is so implausibly heroic, tough and romantic here that he will remind cynical readers of a vigorously sensitive leading character penned by Robert James Waller. All this would be forgivable if the plot held together, but Bowen struggles with his frontier metaphors, adding shamanism and ritual killing to the mix and generally failing to clarify the mechanics of so many deaths, which are hard to keep track of through the scrim of Du Pre's smug manliness.