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by Ron Corbett
ECW Press, October 2017
336 pages
ISBN: 1770413944

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

There is plenty of violence in Corbett's debut, the first in the Frank Yakabuski series, but it is the gorgeous writing that makes the biggest impression. Whether it is describing a howling storm, depicting the way the fire following a meth lab explosion turns the snow to rain, or sharing the quiet sounds a building makes when everyone has gone to sleep, Corbett enthralls with his writing. Purists may dislike his use of phrases rather than full sentences at times, but his razor-sharp, economical use of words manages to portray a sense of place and depth of feeling better than the most voluble writing.

That direct and to-the-point style of writing suits his main character extremely well. Yakabuski, an ex-military man, is a regional investigator in a land where the regions are huge. When he gets the call that an isolated and reclusive family living in a makeshift cabin far from what passes for civilization along the Northern Divide has been slaughtered, he and his junior officers must snowmobile through the frozen landscape for a full day to reach the area. The town of Ragged Lake consists of just a few people, and none of them is law enforcement. Since the lumbering and milling operations closed decades ago, the lodge, a survival school, and the camp of an elderly Cree woman provide the only ongoing shelter in town other than the squatters' cabin which is the scene of the crime.

When Yakabuski arrives in town, he discovers that lawlessness prevails, with some gangsters from his past having moved into the void. As he attempts to determine what happened to the family, he uncovers the dead woman's journal, which provides history and background regarding the effects of deep isolation and lawlessness as well as the historical relationships between the loggers, millworkers, and native Cree. Beginning with so few residents, Ragged Lake is essentially deserted by the time Yakabuski and the criminals are done with their confrontation. But in the midst of all of the violent action, Corbett allows us to enter the head of the dead woman, giving us a fully realized and sympathetic character. Yakabuski is also well characterized, although we will be learning more about him as the series progresses. Most of the villains are less thoroughly drawn, sometimes fitting neatly into stereotypes.

This is a compelling start to a series set in an unusual location. I am very much looking forward to seeing where Yakabuski is sent next.

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

Reviewed by Sharon Mensing, October 2017

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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