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GRIZZLY LIES
by Eileen Coughlan
Sumach Press, May 2005
306 pages
$16.95
ISBN: 1894549414


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Freelance journalist Hellie MacConnell is house-sitting for her uncle Doc Rivard, who has gone to Africa. She is dumbfounded when his dead body is discovered under the gazebo; there is no indication of foul play, but what was he doing under the gazebo? Why does his best friend, environmental activist and local crazy person Arthur Elliott insist that Doc was murdered? Does it have something to do with the illegal bear claws found in Arthur's cabin?

Hellie has been given the assignment of writing about big-time Texas hunter Ansel Rock, who pays unbelievable amounts of money (a million dollars) every year for the privilege of trying to shoot an Alberta bighorn sheep. This is a big assignment, because it means an opening door to the major writing markets.

In the process of trying to find Arthur and figure out whether or not Doc was murdered, Hellie begins a turbulent and querulous interview process with Hunt. He quickly discovers her anti-hunting feelings, and they proceed to spar about this throughout GRIZZLY LIES. Coughlan does an admirable job of presenting many sides of that prickly issue, although one does rather suspect her personal feelings lie more with Hellie than with Ansel.

GRIZZLY LIES is set in Banff, and one quickly gets a feeling for the beauty and majesty of that environment. There is also some subtle discussion of the developer vs preservationist issues that invariably arise when long-term dwellers in any kind of paradise are discovered by the rest of the world. Again, Coughlan is fairly even-handed.

Hellie learns that almost everyone she knows, everyone she trusts, has secrets that tarnish them in her eyes. While Hellie copes with all of this in a believable fashion, one hopes that her naivete stems from the emotional mess she left behind in Toronto, when she literally ran away in the middle of her wedding. As always, those kinds of messes don't stay where they are left. By the end, Hellie has confronted her past, learned, moved on, and is as ready as any woman is for the next step in her life . . . whatever that may be.

I found GRIZZLY LIES to be entertaining, thought-provoking, and full of plot twists. While I could see some of the denouements coming, there were one or two moments when I was blind-sided. The down side for GRIZZLY LIES is the fact that it's put out by a small press, with the predictable lack of promotion which sometimes accompanies larger publishing house productions. The up side is that it's worth tracking down. Well worth it. I am hoping there are more Hellie adventures in the pipeline, because I'd like the pleasure of watching Coughlan grow as a writer.

Reviewed by P. J. Coldren, April 2006

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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