The Russian River Valley — laid-back, marijuana-steeped, and off-the-grid — is the backdrop for Bart Schneider’s new mystery featuring the tough and dogged detective Augie Boyer.
Augie takes a break from the bite of another Minnesota winter by visiting the California homestead of his longtime friend Bobby Sabbatini, who is celebrating the opening of his poetry-infused tavern, Ginsberg’s Galley. But Augie’s notoriety precedes him, and his arrival is met with a trip to a murder scene. Ruthie Rosenberg, a local who has fallen into a life of drugs and dependence, has been found at The Last Judgment Campground, shot twice in the head.
At the request of the Deputy Jesse Coolican, who’s loved Ruthie for years, Augie promises to investigate the case himself. No sooner than he starts to ask questions, Augie discovers the trail leading to Ruthie’s killer — or killers — is tangled with politics, religion, bold-faced lies, and suspicious double-lives. Even his closest friends are part of the fray.
Is Ruthie’s murder the work of a copycat? An escalated statement by the religious right? Only an outsider can discover the painful truth — and Augie must work quickly before the insular community buries the truth deep among its ever-growing secrets.
Rather than hackneyed drug humor, Schneider focuses on showing a community that... has fallen in love with poetry. His charming and original characters should ensure returning readers for any future Augie Boyer outings.
Schneider’s vision of a world where everyone, high and low, criminal and otherwise, is susceptible to the clarion call of poetry is somewhere between parody and utopia, but either way, it’s utterly delightful.