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by Harold Adams
Walker & Co., November 1999
208 pages
ISBN: 0802733360

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In his sixteenth outing, itinerant sign painter and detective Carl Wilcox has gotten married, a somewhat surprising turn of events, considering Wilcox's previous success with local ladies he encountered in his travels. But in Hazel it's clear he has found a kindred spirit and one who's keen intellect matches or surpasses his own. The story begins on Hazel and Carl's honeymoon. They're on a canoeing trip on the St. Croix River, the border between Minnesota and Wisconsin, somewhere north of modern

day Taylor's Falls. Hazel chose the camping journey on the river from fond memories of an earlier trip as a teen-ager.

Their idyllic camp, on an isolated island close to the Wisconsin side, is disturbed one night by the sound of a shotgun, a shout, and a wailing scream that is abruptly terminated. Loath to crawl out of their tent, curiosity and Carl's experience lead the couple to investigate. What they discover on nearby railroad tracks forms the genesis of the story.

As is true of all Adams' Wilcox tales, there is more here than is first apparent. Untangling the threads and the interrelationships in the town of Ideville will take a considerable effort by Wilcox, who is hired by the local mayor to assist a non-too-happy sheriff. For the first time, Wilcox has a true assistant. His wife, Hazel, is presented as a full and active partner in the detection enterprise and readers will be delighted to see that her contribution is every bit as insightful and useful as is Carl's. The book continues Adams' tradition as a consummate storyteller and skillful writer, comfortable with his medium and with the language.

His characters are based on the family and other people he has encountered in his long life. These quiet novels are insightful, penetrating examinations of the human experience and they illuminate a different time and place, not of global conflicts or impending doom, but of small events important to the people directly involved, and to those who find answers to large questions in the small and personal actions of a few. If the ending is not as forceful and tidy as readers have come to expect, that minor shortcoming is balanced by this whole new dimension of a Wilcox partnership that has the potential to carry the author through a whole new round of prairie tales. These handsome editions, with evocative cover art from Walker & Company, should find a treasured place on anyone's reading shelves.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, February 2003

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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