Thursday, November 19, 2009

Badlands by Peter Bowen

Title: Badlands
Author: Peter Bowen
ISBN: 0-312-26252-3, St. Martin's Minotaur, 2003
Genre: Amateur Sleuth, #10 Gabriel Du Pré mystery
Rating: B+

First Line: Du Pré fiddled the last bars of Poundmaker's Reel, drawing the last note out and then fading it to silence.

I'm slowly coming to the end of this series. I keep putting it off, but sooner or later I just have to have a Du Pré fix, and I get one book closer to No More.

Whenever I review one of Peter Bowen's Gabriel Du Pré mysteries, readers seldom comment. Perhaps it's because Du Pré is so unabashedly not politically correct. He likes to smoke. He likes to drink. He likes to drive his old police cruiser at high speed down those empty Montana highways-- usually all three at the same time.

Parker came up to it. She bent over and put her head in. "You OK," she said.

"Yah," said Du Pré. "I am doing the damned speed limit, yes?"

"Yeah," said Parker, "you were, which worried the hell out of me. There's Du Pré I says to myself, and he musta been carjacked cause he is just driving the speed limit. Little under actually. You feel all right?"

That alone is enough to make him anathema in many homes, and it's a downright shame. By not touching these books, readers are missing out on wonderful music, the culture of the Métis Indians, the lilting cadence of Coyote French, and the strong uncompromising landscape of Montana and its fiercely independent inhabitants who know how to take care of their own with no outside interference.

In this tenth book of the series, a ranch family has come on hard times and put their land up for sale. The land is bought by the Host of Yahweh, a cult from California. Soon trucks are delivering all sorts of building materials and supplies. Dozens of homes go up for cult members to live in, and barbed wire starts being strung. The Host of Yahweh's property borders the Badlands where the wild horses live. The cult doesn't want the horses to come on their land for water or grazing, and when they post a couple of members out there to kill the horses, that bothers Du Pré. Of course, he's already bothered because his friend in the FBI has let him know that everyone who tries to leave the cult winds up dead.

Trying to get the goods on the Host of Yahweh isn't the only thing going on in Badlands. Bowen's series is always filled with music and laughter. Du Pré's fiddle provides the backdrop to the real life moments of coping with failing eyesight and headstrong grandchildren and trying to scratch out a living on the land. That California cult may think it can have its way with the country hicks who live around Toussaint, Montana, but these tough folks know how to take care of their own with love, with spirit, and with honesty. Reading a Gabriel Du Pré mystery is reading about America the way it used to be... and the way it still is if you happen to mosey down the right highway.

[Source: Purchased through]


  1. I have to admit I haven't read the Du Pre series. I thoroughly enjoy series that give one a sense of place and context, though, and it sounds as though this one really does so. I'm going to have to give it a try.

  2. I haven't read any of these either, but that's NOT because "Du Pré is so unabashedly not politically correct." I think I would like this series. Adding another Cathy book to the wish list.

  3. You've made Du Pre sound so interesting that I've just reserved the first of the series - Coyote Wind- at the library.

    Thanks for putting me onto these!

  4. I'll comment. I love Du Pre. I read most of them at one time and would read them again.

  5. Margot K-- Peter Bowen does an exemplary job in creating a sense of place and context. He is one of my favorite writers.

    Beth-- I hope you can see the big ole grin that's on my face! LOL

    Debbie-- You're so very welcome. Thanks for stopping by!

    Joe-- I'm so glad to hear from another fan!


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