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by Dave Butler
Dundurn, October 2018
408 pages
ISBN: 1459739833

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

For those who like mystery novels with a strong outdoor component and a setting in national parks, the Jenny Willson series by Dave Butler will seem like a Canadian version of Nevada Barr's Anna Pigeon series. The first in the series, FULL CURL, introduced us to the Banff National Park ranger and won the Arthur Ellis award for Best First Crime Novel in 2018. This second Jenny Willson mystery has her posted to Yoho National Park to work below the radar to find out what's going on with an attempt to build a ski resort within the boundary of the Park and therefore in the prime breeding grounds for the endangered wolverine. As she arrives, she is considering a short-term international posting to Namibia, which makes her efforts in this endeavor time-limited.

The story line pits a possibly crooked developer against a definitely committed environmentalist, with Jenny determined to figure out what is going on. Major players, beyond the developer and the environmentalist, include a variety of governmental hacks, an investigative journalist, parks employees, an accountant, and Jenny's mother. Jenny has felt responsible for her mother ever since her father died in a tragic railway accident, and her short-term posting to Yoho NP allows her to have some time with her mom.

As Jenny hones in on the developer, investigating a murder and a shooting that seem connected to the ski resort project, violence escalates and both Jenny and her mother are threatened. Politics play an important role in both the development of the mystery and in its resolution. The threats against Jenny's mother turn into reality in an unexpected way. In the end, enough holes have been filled to provide a sense of closure, while enough loose ends remain to provide for the next book. Butler may have expanded his range beyond the approximately fifty national parks and reserves in Canada (vs. about 400 in the US (Anna Pigeon's possible range)) with the potential of a posting to Namibia. We will have to see where he takes Willson in book number three in the series.

The beauty of the Canadian wilderness shines throughout the book, so that the reader is naturally sympathetic toward the environmental perspective. Jenny is a well-developed character, with both virtues and shortcomings apparent. Some of the other characters are not quite as well developed, and some of the history between Jenny and other characters would be lost to those who did not read book #1 in the series. As the series progresses and we get to know the secondary characters better, I look forward to the greater depth this will bring to the Butler's plotting.

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

Reviewed by Sharon Mensing, December 2018

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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