A Montana poet/rancher and a New York literary agent make unlikely allies and lovers in this seductive mystery by Allen Jones.
It’s a story that opens with a poem and a murder.
Eli Singer ranches near Jordan – or rather 50 miles from town – on a place he inherited from his stepfather, Buddy. His tranquil life is interrupted by two intrusions. The first is Chloe, a literary agent who comes to eastern Montana to visit the writer of verses “tight as bread pressed into bricks.”
“You know what I love about your work?” she asks. “How you know things. Nobody else knows anything.”
While she’s there, road hunters from Glendive discover a decayed body, emerging from a clay cliff at the edge of Eli’s ranch. Singer knows whose corpse eroded from the hillside – Pete Fahler, the neighbor who disappeared three decades ago. But he won’t say how the body came to be there, or why the dead man’s family kept receiving “wads of cash” in the mail long after Pete disappeared. Or how he knew they’d find Pete’s truck in the bottom of a nearby reservoir. “I got nothing to say.”
Chloe is caught up in the mystery and mesmerized and exasperated by Singer. She encourages him to write the story, and he does … that’s how this unpredictable tale unwinds – a story within a novel, punctuated by Singer’s poems. For the reader, it’s a fine web. Baffling, compelling, austere as the eastern plains, and just as complex.
“Simply riveting,” writes Mark Spragg, author of An Unfinished Life. “Always lyrical, often wise, filled with vitality and the promise that love and loyalty can surmount the darkness in our lives …”
Jones is the author of another novel, Last Year’s River, and A Quiet Place of Violence, about hunting and ethics; he was co-editor of The Best of Montana’s Short Fiction and is currently editor-in-chief of Big Sky Journal.
– Kristi Niemeyer