by Elizabeth Gunn
With the interruptions common in daily life, I never finish a book in one sitting, and I rarely complete a book the same day I start it. Burning Meredith was an exception. I did stay up late to finish reading it because it was such a good mystery. Due to its focus on police investigative techniques, it is considered a police procedural by those who like to subdivide the genre.
Burning Meredith centers around a huge forest fire in the south-central Montana mountains, destroying many acres and threatening little Clark’s Fort. If it is possible for a bad thing to be good, then this forest fire was it. The disaster breathed new life into the little weekly Clark’s Fort Guardian and provided opportunities for young, local photo-journalist Stuart Campbell to shine. Not afraid of hard work and familiar with the mountains, he manages to put the Meredith Mountain area on the map nationally.
I like the journalist character, but I truly associate with retired teacher Alice Adams who works for the paper as an editor, initially only a few days a week. As she says, “After thirty-two years of catching kids passing crib notes, you didn’t just stop on a dime. Shouldn’t there be a twelve-step plan for this transition?” She is a respected fixture in the community, as she has taught English and social studies to several generations of Clark’s Fort middle schoolers. She encourages her nephew Stuart in his journalistic efforts, and she provides invaluable assistance in solving the mystery of an unidentified man whose body is found after the fire has been controlled.
There are two major threads to this plot; the author initially shares these in separate chapters as unrelated storylines. The reader gets caught up in the reporting of the fire, and then suddenly there is this other direction that appears like an itch waiting to be scratched. Author Elizabeth Gunn’s writing is excellent in terms of the general plot and how it plays out and also in her turn of phrase. Some of Gunn’s prose is so good that I found myself rereading parts just to enjoy her choice of words, her descriptive excellence, or her metaphors. Many mysteries do not allow for much in the way of character development or they expend too much energy on the characters at the expense of the plot. Gunn hits the mark with her writing style. Her main characters are developed and interesting; her minor characters provide a nice backdrop.
Elizabeth Gunn has two series of police procedurals. Will Burning Meredith begin a new series? I could find no indication that it would or wouldn’t, but my opinion is that this book is a good basis for one.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Severn House for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Mystery, Police Procedural
Publication: June 1, 2018—Severn House
Like a bonus for a job well done, Clark’s Fort got a second freaky dose of luck. A surprise deflection in the polar vortex brought cold, moist air and a drastic dip in air pressure down across Canada and pouring into Montana.
“As you well know, Clark’s Fort doesn’t generate much news.” “For sure. My street gets so quiet on August afternoons, I swear I can hear the bluebirds planning their trip south.”
She gave him the English teacher look that had brought silence to rooms full of eighth-grade miscreants for a generation.
…when the weather warmed up the country roads became mud-holes even more impassable than the snow-drifts had been. People still had to get around, so they chained up and churned out, making ruts you could lose a spring calf in.