Prather’s Pick: ‘Coyote Wind’ a mystery that offers a little of everything
My husband Lyle lent me this week’s book, his birthday gift from granddaughter Jessica. I don’t know how to describe the book other than to say it’s “different,” and I like the book a lot. “Coyote Wind” is the first of 13 Montana Mysteries featuring Gabriel Du Pre’. The book was written by Peter Bowen and published by Open Road Integrated Media, copyright 1994.
This book has a little of everything, including mystery and humor. There are several colorful characters, beginning with the leading character, Gabriel Du Pre’. He is a mixed-race (Cree and French) lawman, specifically, a brand inspector. What makes the book so “different” (and charming) is that the author wrote it from the leading character’s point of view, including the way he speaks and thinks. For example, Du Pre’ (Gabriel) recalls a joke: “… the big North Dakota winter sport, get the neighbors to help push the house down the road, jump-start the furnace.”
Years ago, Gabriel’s father, Catfoot, was also a brand inspector, but he has since passed on. Gabriel is 40 years old. He’s a widow with two daughters, Maria, 14, and Jacqueline, who is married and has five children. Gabriel lives with his girlfriend, Madelaine Placquemines, who has children of her own. The novel takes place in the fictional town of Toussaint, Montana.
Gabriel is a brand inspector, but the police force around Toussaint is stretched pretty thin, so sometimes, they recruit him to fill in. That’s the case as this book begins. Gabriel has just signed off on two truckloads of steers that are being trucked to a feedlot in Nebraska. He’s headed back home in his old Plymouth (purchased from the cops) when the sheriff calls on the two-way radio.
The sheriff says his men are tied up elsewhere and that some people from the East Coast (with lots of money) have called with a report about a plane crash. The people live in the foothills of the Wolf Mountains. One of their hired hands has found an old plane wreck in a draw up high with some skeletons. The FAA has no record of a missing plane in that area, so it won’t investigate until it knows there really is a wreck. So, will Gabriel investigate?
Gabriel gets a horse and, with the hired hand’s help, locates the plane. The wreckage has been there for three decades. Gabriel finds two skeletons, but down in the draw, he also finds two human jawbones and a skull with a hole in the forehead.
Now, the FAA will investigate. The reason the wreck was never reported was that the people aboard never filed a flight plan. It isn’t long before the two skeletons are identified. But to whom does the skull belong? The crime is old, and solving it will uncover dark secrets.
This is a fascinating book. In other Montana Mysteries featuring Gabriel Du Pre’, the brand inspector solves a variety of crimes. Some of the books in this series can be found at the Craig branch of Moffat County Libraries.
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