Thursday, May 26, 2011

Nails by Peter Bowen

Title: Nails
Author: Peter Bowen
ISBN: 9780312312077
Publisher: Minotaur Books, 2006
Hardcover, 240 pages
Genre: Amateur Sleuth, #13 Gabriel Du Pré mystery
Rating: A
Source: Purchased from Bookcloseouts.

First Line: Du Pré looked east.

A family member has returned from Iraq missing a leg, an eye, and his grip on reality. His hellion of a granddaughter, Pallas, has returned from her studies in Washington, D.C., and a vanload of fundamentalist Christians has arrived in Toussaint, Montana. Du Pré is pretty sure he's going to have his hands full for a while.

Graffiti on the door of Father Van Den Heuvel's church and a panicked phone call from an unidentified girl cause people in the town of Toussaint to be worried, and when the nude body of a young girl is found by the side of the road, Du Pré and the others know it has something to do with the newly-arrived fundamentalists. The trick is in finding out how and why.

It is depressing when a much-loved series of books comes to an end, but in many ways, Nails is a fitting end to the story of Gabriel Du Pré and the people of Toussaint, Montana.

Throughout the series, Father Van Den Heuvel has been seen as a lovable but almost fatally clumsy man-- a figure of fun. In Nails, we are given a chance to see him fleshed out, and it becomes clear why the townspeople love him.

Gabriel Du Pré lives where he should-- in a land of fiercely independent people who take care of their own and who take responsibility for their own actions. He is the furthest thing from politically correct. He ignores the speed limit, smokes hand-rolled cigarettes, and drinks whisky like most people chug down bottled water. But he also plays fiddle like an angel, takes care of his friends, and defends the weak. These are his passions, and he serves them well.

Throughout the book are little stories that don't do much to advance the plot, but they make me smile and love these characters even more. These people are not rednecks. They are living the life they want to live and raising their families. Their children are scattered around the globe, serving in the military, working for oil companies, studying art.

A friend read one of these books. I had carefully told her about the non-PC elements because I didn't want her to have any rude shocks. When she was finished reading, she started to rant about child abuse and the myriad other things she found wrong. Well... she's thirty years younger than me. She's come to believe that parenting is in effect wrapping children in cotton batting so nothing can hurt them and giving them everything they want. When I read about Du Pré and Madelaine's methods, it feels familiar. I see lots of love, and I see people raising children to be responsible and to work for what they want. If this makes me an old fart, then that's what I am.

Nails is touched with sorrow, showing a small town that's dying around the edges. As a local schoolteacher says, "These days, if you don't have an education and often enough if you do, you work for nothing and you get nothing for a life of work." This book, more than all the others, shows how ignorance and fear beget violence.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt knew exactly what he was talking about when he said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Peter Bowen reminds us all that there are still people who do not fear to do what is right, and I cherish his portrait of them.


  1. Cathy - "Not PC" doesn't need to mean "not a good person." I have to admit that although I know about this series, it's one I haven't really delved into. I should. Thanks for reminding me of it.

  2. I wasn't familiar with this series, but I'll be looking to see what the library has now!

  3. This is one of my favorite series without question! Thanks for again bringing it to our attention.

  4. Margot-- You've been missing a gem.

    Jenclair-- Fantastic!!!

    Joe-- It takes a certain kind of reader to truly appreciate the series, but I certainly wish all those readers would sit up and take notice!

  5. I get impatient with parents, particularly mothers, who think they can/should protect their kids from everything under the sun. No wonder their kids don't know how to live without Mommy. Makes you wonder how my generation, and yours for that matter, survived childhood, doesn't it? I'm glad I was free to just be a child. I'll look into this series. Sounds good.

  6. Barbara-- It is an excellent series, and I hope you get a chance to sample it. By the way... just how did you and I survive our childhoods??? :o)

  7. Sounds like an excellent I need to check out. While I'm probably much younger than you..I have a feeling the way the characters raise their kids wouldn't be an issue with me. lol Interested to find out though.

  8. Kris-- I don't think it would bother you. You might even get a kick out of it as I did. :)


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