Grizzly by Chrstine Andreae is a 1996 murder mystery that takes place in the mountains of northern Montana.
2 out of 10 stars. This was another really bad novel. Nothing happened in the entire first half of the book. The next third has two events and the last 20 pages has the entire plot. Might as well skip the first 228 pages and go straight to the last 20. And a dumb plot it was.
Lee Squires is a middle-aged divorcee who lost a kid to leukemia years ago. She has a master’s degree in poetry and teaches it at Georgetown University, but for some reason she spends Easter vacation in Montana as a cook for a dude ranch hosting several Japanese businessmen who are thinking of buying the ranch.
The first four chapters are entirely backstory. Vomiting backstory is not a great way to start a novel. The ranch was started by a trust fund baby from New York City named Olwyn Fife. He bought 20,000 acres of mountain land and built a lodge on it. While he was tending to his 500 head of cattle, his wife Cora was turning the ranch into a dude ranch where wealthy New Yorkers came and pretended to be real cowboys. She charged a fortune. When Olwyn came down with cancer, he made Cora promise him that no matter what she would never break up the land, that she would give it all to Dave who would take care of it. Their other son, Mac, was more interested in burning the US flag, draft dodging, and getting famous as an eco-terrorist. Cora promised, then once Olwyn died, she promptly gave the entire ranch to Mac, her favorite. Dave was left with nothing but the lodge which was worthless without the ground it sat on. Cora died and Dave and his wife Trudi tried to eek out a meager living on the ranch, constantly worrying about the land beneath them being sold away for one of Mac’s ventures. Over time, Mac mortgaged the land three times for a total of three mortgages. So they could never ever hope to get it back. 🙁
Lee comes for Easter weekend at Trudi’s request to cook for their Japanese guests. Lee has no skills as a cook and she and Trudi bicker constantly. Lee’s really there because she wants to sleep with Mac who to her is handsome. I’m not sure why, gray hair and a surly attitude do nothing for me. Plus he has a live-in lover Clare who he also runs the foundation with. Why go after a guy whose with someone else?
Pages and pages of the novel are devoted to Lee lusting after Mac who other than toying with her head has zero interest in her. Pages and pages are devoted to the meals she prepares which is incredibly boring. Pages and pages are devoted to the poems she quotes, the novels she quotes, the authors she quotes, and dropping brand names for what I can only guess is really expensive apparel. I don’t care. Where’s the mystery?
Halfway through we finally get one taste of a mystery. They find what appears to be a human body without a penis, hands, a head, or feet. It turns out at the very end to have been a bear. How could any person mistake a human body for a bear? I’m not sure that’s even remotely possible. It’s dumb. These are cowboys, right? Men who work with bears on a regular basis? It isn’t even mentioned that the body has been skinned. Not until the last 20 pages when we learn it’s a bear. An obnoxious reporter is killed and the local authorities, believing it to have been a grizzly, kill the nearest grizzly who was completely innocent. When Lee stumbles upon what really happened, Mac tries to kill her and fake her “grizzly death” with a grizzly hide and claws he has over his arm. Creepy. She shoots him twice and their ranch hand, a Blackfeet Indian, shoots him with a bigger bullet. Dead. Done. Story over. All of this in the last 20 pages.
2 out of 10 stars. It was awful. If you’re even remotely interested, just read the last 20 pages. Ignore the rest. It’s crap. Believe it or not, the cover says this was an Edgar Award nominee. Which tells me that award sucks.
The guests arrived in the mood for a feast, and I started panslinging. Trudi’s recipe for shepherd’s pie had belonged to her Scottish grandmother, whose family employed emigrant Basques on their sheep range. The dish was seasoned with thyme, which the Basques probably picked wild on their native hillsides, but the only thing growing among the dry grasses on the ridge was a patch or two of Douglasia, a tiny mountain pink, so I was using generous pinches of the supermarket variety. Like any home-on-the-range meal, it was a one-pan operation; first the bacon, then the potatoes (very thinly sliced) in a spoonful of the bacon fat, then the beaten eggs. The trick to any egg dish is low heat, so when I poured in the eggs, I hefted the giant-sized cast-iron pan off the fire, covered it, and let its own heat slowly set the eggs. This made room for my pan of apples. The biscuits I had made earlier that morning in the J-E’s kitchen. (Trudi told me that her grandmother, when out on the range, would mix her biscuits right in the flour sack, pouring bacon grease on top, adding baking powder and milk, and stirring up flour from below until the dough was the right consistency. I was impressed.)
…The guests milled around my fire. Monica was wearing her black leggings and boots, but topped with a cream-colored nubby-knit turtleneck and an artfully bleached denim jacket. Its red plaid lining had been faded to an orange that matched the lollipop of her hair. Monica’s skin was Pre-Raphaelite pale, her mouth carmine. The look was Lady-of-Shallot-shops-J.Crew. Clare was in jeans and wore a battered canvas field coat over her loose black hair, so that it gathered around her collar in a pageboy effect and made her look younger and happier. Both of them were drinking hot Bloody Marys–along with the Japanese. As it happened, I was the only one into the champagne, and although I usually prefer my bubbles drier, its yeasty, almost peachy sweetness went down very smoothly with the wood smoke from my fire. The glasses Trudi had packed–shallow dishes on stems–were precarious. According to enological legend, their shape had been molded on Marie Antoinette’s breast. Drinking out of her shoe would have been easier. Nonetheless, as I squatted over the fire, maneuvering my glass away from stray boots, I managed to polish off half the bottle.
If you want to read 200 pages of this, here’s your book. 🙂
Reviewed by Jill. (All of the misspellings above are entirely the author’s, not mine. I copied verbatim.)