PETER BOWEN – Coyote Wind. Gabriel Du Pré #1. St. Martin’s, hardcover, 1994; paperback, 1996.

   Bowen is the author of three books about Yellowstone Kelly. This is his first mystery, and the first of a projected series.

   Gabriel Du Pré is a brand inspector in Montana, and a French Indian, a Métis, a descendant of the voyageurs. He’s widowed, with a 14 and a 21-year old daughter, the latter happily married and turning out babies, the former bright and rebellious. He has an ongoing relationship with a 40-year woman with four children whose husband has left her, and he has taste for fiddling and whiskey.

   He’s inveigled by the Sheriff into accompanying a cowboy from a ranch owned by a family of rich Eastern drunkards up into the hills to the site of a newly discovered old plane wreck. He finds skeletons there, and a skull with a bullet hole. The plane turns out to have crashed nearly 40 years ago, and the skull to be part of a legendary local unsolved murder. It will turn more lives than one upside down before all the connections are made and all the old ghosts laid to rest.

   I liked this a lot. I liked the writing. and I liked the characters. Bowen has a distinctive voice,one which matches narrative and story admirably. Du Pré is one of the more original leads to come along in the last few years, and one of the more appealing. Bowen has a love and a feel for the Montana landscape and way of life that is evident on every page, though it never interferes with the story.

   It seems to me a very masculine book, though there are a couple of strong female characters, and I’ll be interested to see if it appeals to women at all. It’s a slender book, but just the right size for the story it has to tell. This is one of the best I’ve read this year.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #14, August 1994 (slightly revised).

Bibliographic Note:   Barry was certainly correct about Du Pré becoming a continuing character. There are now fourteen in the series, with Bitter Creek being the most recent one, coming out in 2015.