Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Pierce’s Picks: “Red Jacket”

A weekly alert for followers of crime, mystery, and thriller fiction.

Red Jacket, by Joseph Heywood (Lyons Press):
This novel wasn’t supposed to become available until early September, but it seems to have slipped into the public realm ahead of schedule. Heywood is of course the author of eight novels (most recently Force of Blood) starring Grady Service, a former Marine and conservation officer working the backwoods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. In Red Jacket he introduces a second protagonist, Lute Bapcat, a former cowhand and ex-beaver trapper who, in 1913, after serving with Theodore Roosevelt’s legendary Rough Riders in the Spanish-American War, becomes--thanks partly to Roosevelt’s backing--one of Michigan’s first civil-service game wardens, assigned to the rugged but industrialized Keweenaw Peninsula. This book (based on historical events) finds Bapcat in the middle of an extremely volatile labor strike targeting local copper-mining companies. Mine owners are doing their damndest to make life hard for the strikers, hoping in the process to break their influential union. Bapcat’s in a tough position himself, trying not to (obviously) take sides in the dispute, while endeavoring to maintain order on his patch and deal with the irate miners--many of whom didn’t speak English. But it’s clear that increasing violence in on the horizon. Heywood exhibits an obvious love for the Upper Peninsula environment, as well as an appreciation of historical detail.

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Also worth watching for this week: The Double Game, by Dan Fesperman (Knopf), in which a once upwardly mobile journalist, Bill Gage, pursues the elusive truth behind three-decades-old rumors that a quondam CIA operative and current best-selling novelist was a double agent during the Cold War; and Pines, by Blake Crouch (Thomas & Mercer), a suspenseful yarn about a federal agent who fears for his sanity after surviving a bad car accident near what seems to be a quiet town--and then has even greater cause to worry, after discovering the despoiled corpse of a fellow agent who’d recently gone missing.

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