Reporter Lola Wicks seems to have a nose for trouble. It’s taken her to war-ravished countries around the world as a foreign correspondent, and lands her in the midst of North Dakota’s oil patch in this sequel to Gwen Florio’s debut, Montana.
The story begins with a dead body – young Judith Looking Calf, found frozen in a snowbank on the edge of the Blackeet Reservation. Lola, who works for the tiny Magpie Daily Express, shouldn’t be covering a possible crime because she’s sleeping with the county sheriff, Charlie Laurendeau.
She convinces her editor to let her travel to Burnt Fork, ND, to write a story on reservation men who work in the oil patch. She can’t help asking local sheriff Thor Brevik about the dead girl too. The sheriff – a former rodeo star crippled after a bull stomped on his backbone – shares his office with the ominous, oversized Dawg, a “sort of” deputy who can’t be the real thing because he can’t pass a background check.
Dead bodies keep showing up in Burnt Fork, seemingly in Lola’s wake. Double Derricks, a stripper she interviewed at the Sweet Crude, winds up with a broken neck; two oil-patch workers she plans to meet for dinner are killed in a drilling accident. But Lola keeps asking difficult questions about Judith and other missing reservation girls, even after a brutal beating by a Goliath wearing a ski mask and steel-toed boots.
The trail eventually leads to a trailer in the well-fortified “man camp” in an ending that bristles with intensity and surprise.
Florio’s second book is not only a chilling, well-crafted tale; it also explores the underbelly of the oil boom and what happens to a small, rural town when big money rolls in, and men outnumber women 50 to one.
“The writing is top-notch, the action builds at just the right pace, and Lola Wicks is going to be around for a long, long time,” predicts Kirkus Reviews.
Florio, a veteran journalist whose stories have been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, lives in Missoula. Her first novel, Montana, won one of the inaugural Pinckley Prizes for Crime Fiction. This latest effort was published by The Permanent Press, Sag Harbor, NY, and sells for $28.
– Kristi Niemeyer