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by Scott Graham
Torrey House, June 2016
288 pages
ISBN: 193722659X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In the first three quarters of YELLOWSTONE STANDOFF, Graham does a terrific job of maintaining suspense and keeping the reader wondering what could possibly be happening. In the last quarter, however, he asks the reader to suspend disbelief to such an extent that the book reads almost more like a dark fantasy than like a mystery. Chuck Bender, the archaeologist hero of this series, signs on as a member of a research team headed into the backcountry of Yellowstone two years after a horrific killing of two wolf researchers by a grizzly caused the suspension of backcountry research. Wanting to give his adopted daughters a taste of archaeology in the field, he takes along his entire family. There is a minor discussion of archaeology in this third in the series, but the wolf and grizzly research takes center stage.

Once at the campsite, the researchers find that the grizzlies and wolves appear to be working in concert, something that goes against their nature and raises huge questions while causing excitement amongst the researchers. When one of the researchers is killed, and not by one of the animals who are threatening the camp, Chuck is determined to identify the murderer and his or her motive. Events escalate, other researchers are threatened, and impossible technology is deployed. Chuck saves the day many times while the wolves seem spectacularly inept at causing major harm. The reader can be forgiven for not figuring out the motive of the murderer, since there is no hint of either motive or identity until the final sections of the book.

The dark, menacing, and remote forests of Yellowstone are well described, and Graham's writing transports the reader to the area surrounding the researchers' camp. Chuck, while a little bit of a superhero who places himself squarely in the center of every dangerous situation, is a likeable guy that you'd want to have on your team if you were being threatened by either humans or animals. And Chuck's children and wife raise the ante on the danger in the situation. However, the reader who picks up this book hoping for a continuation of Chuck's archaeological perspective will be disappointed. And enjoying this book through to the end will require being willing not to ask too many questions about the technology involved. The underlying story of the lengths one might go to protect what he loves rings true, however.

I am hopeful that Graham will return to Chuck's archaeological roots in his future books in this series. To a reader unfamiliar with the series, I would suggest starting at the beginning with CANYON SACRIFICE (Grand Canyon National Park) and moving on to MOUNTAIN RAMPAGE (Rocky Mountain National Park) before reading this most recent. They will provide you with a better understanding of Chuck and a better sense of Graham's capabilities.

Sharon Mensing is the Head of School of Emerald Mountain School, an independent school in the mountains of Colorado, where she lives, reads, and enjoys the outdoors.

Reviewed by Sharon Mensing, June 2016

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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