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    CRUZATTE AND MARIA by Peter Bowen


    St. Martin's Minotaur, March 2001

    Gabriel Du Pre wants nothing to do with the nine people missing on the Montana stretch of the Missouri River. He also wants nothing to do with a film being made to celebrate the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Naturally, Du Pre gets neither of his wishes. Although the river can be dangerous, he doesn't think all of the boating accidents are accidental. When his daughter Maria gets involved with the filming, Du Pre does as well. The Montana ranchers are fighting back to preserve their way of life. A bunch of outsiders creating films of how beautiful their region would be and how much better it would be with buffalos rather than cattle is just the spark they need to erupt into open warfare.

    Du Pre doesn't so much investigate as put himself in the right place to stumble onto clues. He has a pretty good idea who is involved from the beginning (young kids whose families are losing their entire way of life are an obvious place to start). With a little help from Benetsee, a Metis shaman, Du Pre discovers long-lost artifacts from the Lewis and Clark expedition, turns up dead bodies, and upsets the movie makers.

    It is the character of Du Pre and of the Montana countryside where he lives that makes CRUZATTE AND MARIA work. Du Pre identifies with the land, has more in common with the killers than their victims, yet cannot simply accept the easy answer. His throw-away lines about Montana being in a ten thousand year drought and the brutal reality that the Montana ranching lifestyle is being destroyed by people who donít understand it create a texture that goes beyond the standard mystery. I initially found the dialect off-putting but soon found that it became part of the story itself.

    Peter Bowen (see other reviews of novels by this author) has written an interesting novel with a truly fascinating character--a man who believes in his family more than in abstract concepts of right and wrong, who would rather create music than solve crimes, and yet a man who must put himself in terrible danger to find the truth. Bowen shows a deft touch of humor, saving CRUZATTE AND MARIA from becoming overly preachy. I sat down to read for an hour and didnít look up until Iíd finished the novel.

    Four Stars

    Purchase CRUZATTE AND MARIE from (hardback).