It was the hour of prowling bears, circling nightowls, vengeful spirits, and savage hearts. It was the hour of predators.
Two gruesome murders have shocked and divided the community of Bella Coola, a small, isolated village in a remote river valley on the coast of British Columbia. The evidence points to a teenaged Nuxalk boy, and the simmering tension between whites and tribe members heats up. RCMP Inspector Marcus Chao must sort through misleading clues, cultural conflicts, tangled relationships, sexual scandals, and even rumors of sorcery to find the truth. Marcus is a man whose life has skidded into remorse and misery. His own infidelity has ended his marriage to the woman he still loves, and now he finds himself with only two things to keep his sinking spirits afloat: the need to serve justice and his eternal fascination with solving the puzzle of the crime. This latest puzzle, however, is proving to be a maze of intrigue, and his mettle as well as his principles will be tested.
This book started out slowly for me, which probably had more to do with my slug brain than Lane Stark’s words. But man oh man, I was hooked by the end of the first chapter, as the young Claire finds herself in a tough spot with her pervert boss. And the murders are pretty gross. Mountie Marcus Chao is a strong character, flawed as an ex-husband and human being, but all too human, and something of a legend as a detective. Who hasn’t screwed up at times, right? Well Marcus made a big one, and lost the love of his life, Gemma Lovecraft, a college professor specializing in linguistics. Gemma’s also an expert on Bella Coola, having spent some time there to learn Nuxalk culture and customs. So Chao calls his ex-wife, asking for her help with the murders, and their first encounter is less than successful! I liked this meeting between the “exes,” as Gemma makes it clear to Marcus that she’s not happy with him. I found this relationship to be entertaining, on the whole; Gemma is still hurting from their divorce, and Marcus is working really hard to earn her forgiveness. Their relationship could have been handled with more depth, I thought, given their history. But their personal drama takes a back seat to solving the awful murders in Bella Coola, as Marcus and his team head to the tiny village to continue their investigation.
If you’ve ever lived in a small town, you know that everyone’s secrets get found out eventually. But some of the secrets in Bella Coola have been deftly covered up; Marcus and his crew have their work cut out for them as they try to discover the truth. Their search is made more difficult because Marcus and his team have no idea how to interrogate members of the Nuxalk culture. That’s where Gemma’s expertise becomes invaluable, and ensures that she and Marcus have to keep talking.
After my slow start reading this book, I found The Hour of Predators to be a solid mystery that kept my interest, and kept me guessing for quite some time–even though I thought I knew “who done it,” I wasn’t sure exactly how it was done. That intrigued the hell out of me. The characters in this story are interesting, well developed and kind of fun (I find evil fun in fiction, scary as hell in real life). Stark uses dialogue well, keeping the story moving along at a good clip as it becomes clear who’s responsible for the murders. And thanks to the marvels of Google search, I learned that the Nuxalk people have lived in the Bella Coola Valley, in British Columbia, before any formal history of the area was written. Cool.
I’m giving The Hour of Predators four stars–a solid story, with characters I would like to see on another case.
And soon, Lane Stark (if you don’t mind)!
THE HOUR OF PREDATORS
A Marcus Chao Mystery