A runaway wildfire tests the mettle and reawakens the spirits of a
battle-scarred firefighter in the Canadian author's latest (The
Trade Mission, 2002, etc.).Four-fifths of a very good novel, this
begins splendidly, with an incrementally detailed picture of hard
lives in the Yukon wilderness (300 miles south of the Arctic
Circle) in the remote town of Ross River ("We're the shit end of
the stick out here"). It's a tough town indeed, where fire chief
Miles McEwan (who bears disfiguring facial and bodily scars from
old burns, along with equally painful memories) commands a
hard-drinking crew of phlegmatically heroic firemen; wrestles with
the aftereffects of an affair with hunting guide Margot Lemontagne
and the hatred of her embittered current lover, Wade Fuerst; and
wonders how to react to the unexpected reappearance of Alex, the
woman whom he had loved and left before Margot, and the young
daughter (Rachel) whose existence comes as a complete surprise to
him. Pyper explores their intensifying interrelationships
skillfully, filling in explanatory details with precisely timed
flashbacks, and disclosing actions from the viewpoints of numerous
involved souls, including all the aforementioned characters, the
elderly couple who engage Margot's services and-quite
imaginatively-a female grizzly bear who loses her cubs to humans
and becomes, as much as does the spreading fire which provides the
central plot, the incarnation of an embattled natural world
patiently, implacably seeking its revenge. Two grievous
miscalculations all but ruin the novel. Brief sequences shown from
the viewpoint of an unidentified arsonist are never brought to
resolution, and an overly melodramatic chain of coincidental
climaxes drains away much of the credibility built up by the
story's rich specificity. The ending toward which Pyper shapes his
story is simply not believable.It's a pity: This might have been a
truly exemplary thriller. (Kirkus Reviews)
After half his body was burned in a forest fire, Miles McEwan
left his life behind and moved to the most remote place he could
find, a little village in the Yukon called Ross River. He's sitting
at his usual spot in the town's one bar as two life-changing forces
approach from opposite sides: one is a forest fire, set with the
flick of a match; the other is his former girlfriend, who after
five years of searching has tracked him down, bringing with her a
daughter Miles didn't know he had. As head of the town's
firefighters, Miles must confront the fire, find a killer, and
protect his newfound family. Andrew Pyper's vivid, panoramic story
encompasses the vast wilderness of the Yukon, as malevolent forces
of nature and man converge on Ross River, in this "brilliant
melding of mystery, suspense, survival, and the supernatural" ("The
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