Montana
by Gwen Florio



The Permanent Press, 2013. ISBN 978-1-579-63338-4.
Reviewed by Sharon Wildwind
Posted on 03/06/2014

Fiction: Mystery

Journalist Lola Wicks is awakened from a sound sleep in Afghanstan for a phone call she doesn't want. Her Baltimore newspaper has been downsized. She's being pulled from the war zone and reassigned to cover a quiet Baltimore suburb.

No way, but in order to get herself back to Afghanstan she first has to get away from her editor. She has weeks of accumulated vacation. Why not spend a few days in Montana with her friend and fellow reporter, Mary Alice Carr? From there she can take a long plane ride to Kabul and disappear back into the world she loves.

Her first day in Montana, murder interrupts her carefully laid plans. As she investigates, she pits herself against western small town culture, which she finds more confusing than hill insurgents.

There is lovely language here.

The landscape swelled for mile after empty mile. Even the cattle disappeared, leaving nothing but sky and clouds and tall grass endlessly bowing and kneedling before the invincible wind. Lola felt lost in it, lightheaded. She wondered how Johnny Running Wolf had made the adjustment from Chicago to a world where the horizon was the only delineation. Then she saw the Suburban, looking more consequential than the house itslef, which was the standard swaybacked reservation model, siding peeling in lazy curls from the plywood frame. Lola pulled up beside and cut the engine. Johnny Running Wolf's bulk filled the narrow doorway. He shaded his eyes against the sun and waited.

I have a personal prejudice against prologues. I never read them until after I finish the book. This time I was glad I hadn't read it because if I had, the first part of the book might have lost some tension. Use your own judgment about whether to read or not read the prologue.

The rest of the book is a fine mystery with well-drawn and interesting characters, one of those mysteries where I always convinced myself that a few more pages were worth losing a little sleep. I never regretted the choice.

Read an excerpt from this book.


Gwen Florio grew up in Delaware and moved to Montana after a thirty-plus career as a journalist, including working in several combat zones. Her journalism has won several awards and has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize by the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Denver Post and the Missoulian. Her short fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She's a member of Missoula's enthusiastic running community, Run Wild Missoula, and last year ran a solid back-of-the-pack marathon. Visit her website.

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