For a good mystery, suspicion has to be cast with affirmation. Perhaps in keeping true to the no-frill ways of the wild, Kasey Riley does not waste time with any pretence at juggling beauty and extraneous details with the task at hand. She opens her story in 1933, makes us aware of a clue inside a mysterious tin can and kills its source in the blink of an eye. Before you can spare a moment to reminisce, you’re back in the present day - Chapter One.
The women of Riverview - Bethany, Megan, Kam et al - are profiled with purpose. We’re not here to witness another vacuous expression of valor and sturdiness which, at the first fall and sight of blood, would give way to cute calls for rescue. No, the ladies know how to counter pain, know their horses and most importantly, know that the possession of such grit does not imply the disposal of femininity. Author Riley engraves this significant message in her writing in a very subtle way, as if she wishes for the readers to see it not as something boastful and extraordinary, but the exact opposite.
The story begins with an accidental discovery of skeletal remains of our former Mr. 1933. A teasing note from that time lends some weight to the speculative tragedy and gradually the investigations begin. Soon enough, the parties are hindered by visions as well as attempts at life by someone unknown. The latter works well to compound the mystery. As a detective notes, one begins to wonder how a decades-old murder can possibly affect people so far removed from the crime, timewise. And that is when the elusive tin can makes a re-appearance. It is a moment which lends a pleasing new twist to the tale - one that is best left untouched in this review.
There’s a fair bit of love for the “good old” throughout the story. I cannot possibly imagine enjoying a mouthful of good food with nothing but a “Crap, I will miss that machine” if my laptop were toasted! That is the fun part. The story offers an escape into the rugged, digitally detoxified world still populated with crackle of dry leaves, sticky wetness of mud, creaking cabin doors, and quite inevitably, sex. Even the lingual tone and details add to the tone. This, in fact, is the second big characteristic of Kasey’s storytelling, the unassuming girl power being the first.
The book is best read on a light evening with some charming music. It fills your seconds with a good pace and does enough to keep you at it. The effect is best described by one of the later scenes where a group is sitting together, enjoying some laughter, revelations, and nostalgic thoughts of “who’d have known...”
But lest I forget, there is also one idle instance that I particularly liked. For, in trying to express some harmless wit on an unrelated topic, the author exposes her idea of heroics, and consequently, her ulterior message in this story - a balance of courage and practicality. It comes when two of the protagonists are about to ride a horse:
The man boasts, “I have never needed a helmet.”
The woman politely concurs: “If you have a brain to protect, you wear a helmet; otherwise you don’t need one.”
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