Sunday, December 14, 2014

Ray's Reviews: Joseph Heywood's Mountains of the Misbegotten

“Mountains of the Misbegotten” (Lyons Press, $26.95) by Portage author Joseph Heywood is the second in his new series set in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

The entertaining sequel to Heywood’s excellent “Red Jacket” again showcases Lute Bapcat, a former Rough Rider with Teddy Roosevelt, who’s been appointed as a Deputy Game Warden in the area.

Ontonagon County Game Warden Farrell Mackley has been missing for a few months; Bapcat is assigned to search for him.  Bapcat goes into the rugged territory and barely gets started when he’s shot from a distance
while on his mule.

Bapcat’s rescued by an English dwarf, a priest and Jone Gleann, a strong-willed, fiercely independent schoolteacher/nun. 

As he recovers in their care, he learns that Mackley may have been involved in a scheme to trap bears and sell them to zoos around the country.

Bapcat soon gets another assignment from Lansing – he’s to find and capture Heinrich Junger, also known as Henry Young or “Hank the Shank”, who’s wanted for crimes in Minnesota and other states.

The game warden is familiar with Young – he grew up with him at an orphanage – and mostly remembers him as a tough, red-haired bully.

Bapcat is assisted by secretive Gleann, her associates and his sidekick Pinkhus Sergeyevich Zarkov (among others) in a most unusual hunt in the Porcupine Mountains. Rinka Isohultamaki, who wants to be a deputy game
warden, also provides invaluable information.

Gleann is familiar with the area and is guiding the group; later, she and her students participate in an exceptionally memorable fund-raising effort.

While Bapcat doesn’t have much luck finding more information on Mackley, he’s got better results tracking down Young and his gang, leading to an unexpected confrontation.

Heywood’s latest effort is a highly atmospheric tale that captures the starkness and beauty of the wilderness. In an era and locale where eccentrics abound, Heywood deftly showcases a wide range of characters, including trappers, miners, greedy businessmen, women of ill repute and immigrant workers.

Set in 1914, the well-researched novel may not always be politically correct by today’s standards, but it is historically correct, with a few exceptions that the author notes at the end.

Heywood is a MSU graduate who’s also written nine books in the highly acclaimed contemporary Grady Service mysteries, also set in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing’s Curious Book Shop, has reviewed crime
novels and Michigan books regularly since 1987.

This review was originally published by the Lansing State Journal on December 14, 2014.

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