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Hunter's Dance

Autumn in Michigan's Upper Peninsula means hunting season, and the fall of 1950 finds most everyone in St. Adele township hunting for something—deer, grouse, uranium; love, redemption, escape; a story, a husband, a murderer. When the son of summer residents at the exclusive Shawanok Club is found dead after an uproarious dance at the town hall, the sheriff is flummoxed, and everyone is appalled: Bambi was found in the loft over the tool shed, bound, gagged, and inexpertly scalped. Who better to search for the killer than St. Adele's reluctant constable, John McIntire? The trail he must follow branches off like the spokes of a wheel, in multiple directions, leading to multiple dead ends. The only common link seems to be the boy's parents: a father who is mysteriously unavailable, a mother, on a mission to see her son's killer dead, who remains sequestered in her rented mansion, baking cream pies and playing the piano. Her imported private eye seems more interested in dallying with McIntire's exotic Aunt Siobhan, who's just turned up on his doorstep some 25 years after she ran off with a carnival worker as a teen. And Bambi's mentor on a summer's search for uranium, a hot prospect inFlambeau County, is more conversant with archaeological artifacts than Geiger counters. McIntire's investigation takes him from the haunts of the affluent visitors, to the backwoods camp of a Rube Goldberg hermit, and finally to an abandoned gold mine where he learns what really happened that summer's night.




*Starred Review* The deliberate pace of Hills's sophomore effort, set in heavily rural Upper Michigan in the 1950s (after 2002's Past Imperfect), succeeds perfectly in capturing the complex relationships between insiders and outsiders and the obligations of family and friendship. An argument at a local dance between a rich kid and an Indian youth is prelude to a bizarre murder that sucks Constable John McIntire away from his pleasurable pastime of translating Selma Lagerlof's The Story of Gosta Berling from Swedish to English. By rights McIntire's role is secondary to that of the state police and Sheriff Pete Koski. But McIntire, prodded by conscience and curiosity, worries the investigation along like a bloodhound. Like an art restorer who uncovers a masterpiece hidden under a later, poorer painting, Hills lovingly clears away the grime and accretions to reveal stunning portraits of the residents of St. Adele, be they native, prodigal or temporary. Glimpses of individual portraits tantalize: the wife desperate to save her heavy-drinking husband; the bereaved mother compulsively baking; the private investigator seemingly more intent on finding uranium than a killer; the ancient recluse living rough and zealously guarding his privacy. But only when the restoration is complete can the viewer (or reader) appreciate the brilliance of the artist's vision. Hills's quiet masterpiece, including its shocking ending, lingers in the mind's eye long after the book is finished.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. 



When this densely plotted whodunit opens in 1950, wartime jobs have dried up and times are tough for fishermen, farmers, miners and loggers who live in these parts. Being of hardy Scandinavian stock, people in the close-knit township of St. Adele still paint their houses in cheerful shades of yellow and blue and kick up their heels at the big social events. But when two teenage boys get into a brawl at the Deer Hunters' Dance -- and when one of them is found murdered and hideously mutilated the next morning -- the town constable, a stolid fellow named John McIntire, wonders how well he really knows his neighbors. . . . .rich character studies of people you don't meet every day. Marilyn Stasio


In his second appearance, township constable John McIntire helps investigate the death of the son of one of the summer residents at the exclusive Shawanok Fishing Club in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Eighteen-year-old Bambi Morlen is found dead and partially scalped after a fistfight with a local boy, Marvin Wall, a Native American. Is Marvin the murderer, or is it Bambi's best friend, or even his own parents? Complicating matters, the autopsy finds Bambi was stabbed and poisoned in addition to being scalped. McIntire reluctantly assists the sheriff of Flambeau County with the investigation, but all leads seem to peter out, and Bambi's parents are distant and unhelpful. Although McIntire is disturbed by the arrival of his aunt Siobhan, bringing up unresolved issues about his past, he perseveres. An honorable, likable main character; a good sense of place and time; quirky, well-developed secondary characters; and a complex plot with numerous twists . . . all adds up to an enjoyable addition to what is quickly becoming a fine series. Sue O'Brien
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