The Edge of the Crazies

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Jamie Harrison makes an impressive debut as a novelist—and as a mystery novelist—with THE EDGE OF THE CRAZIES. Setting her fiction in the shadows of the Crazy Mountains, and bringing to life characters who live and breathe and are substantial, Harrison leads her reader through a bewildering geography of love, jealousy, and unexplainable death.

Actually, there is more than one death—and by the novel’s end, those deaths have been explained. The man whose job it is to find that explanation is Sheriff Jules Clement, a wandering native son of the town of Blue Deer, Montana. After spending several years finding himself in the East, Clement has returned to his birthplace—and the West—and succeeded his father as sheriff of Absaroka County. The memory of his father’s death while on duty haunts Clement profoundly and complicates both his personal and professional lives.

The geography of Clement’s world is the Rocky Mountain West in transition—it is the New West of latecoming Hollywood writers and stars who have bought up huge chunks of the Western landscape for their private escapades. When these escapades come to include murder, when the normally predictable and peaceable life of Blue Deer turns uncharacteristically violent and chaotic, Clement must try to piece things back together even as his own life seems to be coming apart at the seams. Varieties of duplicity, layered over by sexual desire and betrayal, obscure the nature of things for Clement. Clement seeks only some satisfying version of the truth.

The world suddenly becomes small for Clement. Despite the expansive and very real presence of the Western geography, the logic of the story reduces itself to certain pressures: of the body, of the past, of the family. Elements of the story—of the reasons for things—remain forever unclear to Clement; even for a man of strong imagination, such as Sheriff Clement, human nature sometimes defies explanation. Yet Clement does manage to resolve the immediate mysteries of his public world, even while getting his own life more or less back on track.