The bodies are dropping all over the place in Elle Wild’s Strange Things Done, and I think I can see a sequel on the horizon. Josephine (Jo) Silver is a reporter whose decision to withhold a story at the request of police may have led to a woman’s murder and quite definitely led to her dismissal and disgrace. She retreats to Dawson, the near-mythical Yukon city that hosts about 60,000 residents in the summer and shrinks to a little over a thousand during the winter when it is cut off, the road closed, the river frozen, and the air service suspended. She will be taking over the Dawson Daily (that is published weekly) which is at least a writing job. If you want to retreat and lick your wounds, being cut off from the rest of the world is one way to do it.
Like many small towns, social life centers on the bars in Dawson and the first chapter begins with Jo sleeping off a hard night’s drinking. Unable to remember what, if anything, happened after she accepted a ride home with the handsome, mysterious, and very tempting Christopher Byrne, she finds herself providing him with an alibi of sorts for the murder of a local woman. She would be so much happier about that alibi if she remembered what happened that night.
She is discouraged from investigating, not only by the police, but by the newspaper editor she is replacing. But, intrepid as any good reporter must be, Jo begins to investigate and in the process finds plenty of scandals, motives, suspects and more bodies. She also makes a good suspect herself, since all the murders have happened since she came to town. It’s clear the local RCMP sergeant in charge of the investigation disapproves of her, but does he disapprove of her or of her relationship with Byrne. Is it suspicion or jealousy?
As you can see, Strange Things Done is filled with all sorts of herrings, red and otherwise. There is also a great group of characters. I love Jo’s roommate Sally who is an irrepressibly brash woman who lives large and suffers no fools, perhaps making her a good suspect, too, since she has an open, brazen mercenary streak. Wild does an excellent job of bringing Dawson City to life, even having Jo partake of the infamous Sourtoe Cocktail. You can feel the biting cold, hear the whistling wind and envision the dancing lights. Wild brings all fives senses into her descriptions and integrates the setting into the narrative so it is a constant presence and as lethal a threat as the killer.
I am eager to read more of Jo Silver’s adventures and I am pretty certain a report that the serial killer whose rampage led to her disgrace and exile has resurfaced is a hint of things to come.
Strange Things Done will be released October 18th. I was provided an e-galley by Edelweiss.
Strange Things Done web site