**** RECOMMEND ****
Not a creek for a playful paddle but one
of deep holes and deadly whirlpools
This was a dark, engrossing read, brim full of the dregs of society and those who seem to be striving to reach the bottom. It reminded me of Chandler's "mean streets" transposed to the Montana backwaters and peopled with failures and fanatics.
The "hero" is so very, very flawed. He is an alcoholic, a failure at marriage with family and social relationships, but with a dogged perseverance when it comes to discharging his duties as a social worker. And that means developing a close relationship with a fanatical, anti-government isolationist and his son.
Characterisation and the sense of place are both extremely well done. There is a sub-story about Pete's runaway daughter interspersed throughout in an odd (but not off-putting) Q&A style. The narrative starts as a slow burn but the suspense builds, though surprisingly not to the expected Fourth-of-July fireworks. The ending is not a foregone conclusion; satisfying, yes, but not exactly wrapped up in happy-ever-afters which rather suits the hit-and-miss outcomes of Pete's interventions.