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by Keith McCafferty
Viking, July 2018
305 pages
ISBN: 0525557539

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Harold Little Feather is working undercover, embedded in a Montanan off-the-grid militia group, when he is pulled to investigate a series of defacements in the Smith River canyon. A battle is raging between those in favor of allowing copper mining in the canyon and conservationists who fear a major environmental catastrophe. Someone is erecting macabre scarecrows near the river and potentially damaging ancient petroglyphs as the culprit writes "Not on My Watch" on canyon walls near the statues. Harold arrives, bringing his newly discovered son along, just as a documentary film-maker joins leaders from both sides of the controversy in a river trip led by Sean Stranahan, the central character of this series. Although Sean plays an important role in the plot, this is ultimately Harold Little Feather's story as his undercover work dovetails with his investigation of the scarecrows.

The plot includes a fair amount of violence, but the book has a very character-centered feel as McCafferty examines Harold's relationship with his son and contrasts it with other father-son relationships that play a significant role in the plot. Harold's underlying kindness and care for others, although covered by a reserved stoicism, is explored as he connects with other characters in the book. The two men who are arguing on camera as they float the river, miner and conservationist, grew up as friends on the Smith River and they are both deeply reflective about their experiences together. Stranahan, an artist, fly-fisherman, and private investigator as well as a river guide, struggles with a decision about continuing to live a solitary life or committing to a relationship. It seems that just about everyone is more introspective in this seventh book in the series, and this adds a great deal of depth to the plot. In this book, people matter.

The writing about location is evocative, as it has been throughout the series. Not only do we come to care about the characters, but we also come to care about the river. The reader is transported to the canyon, and McCafferty makes it clear why the characters revere the area. There is a fair amount of fishing that takes place during the plot, and though the approaches taken to fishing help define the characters, the technical information about fly tying and the flies themselves can become a little tedious for those not familiar with the sport. Perhaps because this book has such a focus on character, I felt as though the fishing was tacked onto the plot, rather than being integral to it. I'm sure, though, that those readers who join Sean in his fishing obsession look for and enjoy those details.

There is a very satisfying resolution to the plot, and it is accompanied by the opening of several possible lines of development for the series. I am looking forward to seeing what McCafferty has in store for book number eight.

Sharon Mensing, retired educational leader, lives, reads, and enjoys the outdoors in rural Wyoming.

Reviewed by Sharon Mensing, October 2018

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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