Monday, March 16, 2015

Jack Pine

Sheriff Reuger London’s job is not an easy one.  His jurisdiction, one he works with a very limited amount of help, encompasses a remote forest area near the Canadian border almost completely populated by men – men to whom physical violence seems almost normal.  To top it off, his is very much a company town dominated by the only employer of consequence anywhere around, Johnson Timber.  And, because theirs is a dying industry that has attracted the attention of environmentalist activists wanting to finish the job of shutting the loggers down, the sheriff is sitting on a powder keg.  When the 16-year-old daughter of a prominent lawyer who is vacationing with his family in a nearby fishing lodge is raped in a woodshed on lodge property, things get ugly.

Despite the usual violation of its treaties with the U.S. government resulting in more and more of its land being confiscated, the Ojibwa Indian Tribe now owns most of the still-unlogged forest remaining anywhere around Johnson Timber.  The tribe, in fact, owns the most valuable trees still standing: acres and acres of 300-year-old Norwegian Pines coveted by every logger around.  Now, though, one of the tribe’s own, Tommy Toboken, is being accused of raping the lawyer’s daughter – and it is up to his old friend Sheriff Reuger London to bring him in. 

But after someone starts shooting loggers, Sheriff London has more to worry about than Tommy Toboken.  Soon Ben Johnson, owner of Johnson Timber, is pointing fingers at the environmentalists; the environmentalists are pointing fingers at the loggers; and the Indians don’t trust anyone on either side.  Now London has to figure out how to stop the sniper before he kills again.  Even though the environmentalists have the most obvious motive for shooting at loggers, Sheriff London decides to widen the scope of his investigation, and soon everyone around him is ducking for cover.

William Hazelgrove
Jack Pine is a first-rate crime thriller very much dependent upon the setting in which Hazelgrove has placed it.  The author vividly portrays a lifestyle and a physical environment few Americans ever get the opportunity to see for themselves, and that is a big part of the fun of Jack Pine.  But because I am so unfamiliar with the accent and speech patterns of the area, the phrasing of some of the dialogue became noticeably repetitive after a while.  Although I suspect that Hazelgrove accurately portrays the conversational pattern of his novel’s setting, I grew weary of how many times I had to read “oh, ya” or “oh, ya, you bet.”  I just do not have the experienced ear required to “hear” the dialogue of this region, and the overuse of “oh, ya” became an irritant.

Bottom Line: Despite my quibble about dialogue, this is a fine thriller with an intriguing setting.

(to be published April 1, 2015)

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