Going Local

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The bodies of environmental lawyer Otto Scobey and his girlfriend Bonnie were discovered floating in local reservoir wrapped in a tent. Jules, the young county sheriff recently back on duty after suffering a gunshot wound, works to find any reason why these two would be murdered. The bodies were found the week before the annual rodeo, and he can barely find any clues before it starts. The supposed accidental death of a rodeo queen, Sylvia Coburg, a long-time friend of Jules and former wife of Otto, only complicates matters.

Jules discovers the major land development deal that Sylvia was an owner of, and that Otto was the lawyer for—Dragonfly Resort—is not quite as clean a business as it appears to be. Also involved in the resort development is Hugh Lesy, a film director who was currently involved with Sylvia and a good friend of Otto, and Everett Parsons, an old schoolmate of Jules who is now the legal adviser for the Dragonfly development. These two become the major suspects in the murders of Otto and Sylvia. Add to this mixture Diane Meek, an old girlfriend of Everett who becomes involved with Jules, and Genie, a lazy criminal who used to date Bonnie, and the mystery gets much more complicated.

Jules reluctantly plays the hero, hates himself for it, but cannot stop. He drives himself into the ground trying to solve the murders. Montana still has laws from the nineteenth century about mining claims and prospecting. Jules finds that the land developers of the Dragonfly Resort have been involved in a conspiracy, of sorts, regarding mining claim rights. Then Jules discovers a few inconsistencies about these secret claims and confronts the suspects without really knowing who the murderer is just to see how they react.

Harrison’s characters are very entertaining and friendly. A drink with Jules and his friends Peter and Alice at the “Blue Bat” bar would be a pretty good time. Harrison makes good use of her experience of the Montana landscape and people. Jules is a great hero and the complexity of the villains makes the story more interesting by demonstrating that everyone is all too human.