A soldier stationed on Mackinac Island in 1830.
With the help of the Michigan State Police, tribal police, and game wardens Martinez cordons off the large railyard and begins a through screening of dozens of hopper cars. In a day long search two more dead girls and the body of a man shot in the back of the head are found lying inside two other hoppers. The cops are more than perplexed. There's little chance of identifying the remains of the two girls and it is unlikely the dead man is the killer of the girls.
Kisor unwinds the mystery and the work of the police team with a deft hand. The task force's investigative work feels authentic, and the systematic search for a needle in who knows how many haystacks captivates the reader. Railroad buffs will also probably enjoy the book for its information on railroad operations.
This the fourth Steve Martinez mystery and frankly they deserve much more attention than they have received. They're worth reading just for the Upper Peninsula ambience as in this passage, "One gets spoiled by the wilderness of the Upper Peninsula, where heavy traffic consists of a dozen cars backed up behind a one-lane path around bridge repairs, where you can go into the woods all day without encountering another human being, where the air is so clean you can take deep breaths without coughing, where you can lie on your back in a forest clearing and count every star in the Milky Way."
The author is a retired editor and critic of the old Chicago Daily News and the Chicago Sun-Times. He was a finalist in 1981 for a Pulitzer Prize for criticism and spends half the year in a cabin on the shores of Lake Superior in Ontonagon County. He obviously knows how to write and is writing in near obscurity. Wake up mystery lovers and take a literary trip to the western U.P.
Kisor, Henry. Tracking the Beast, Gale Cengage Learning, 2015. $25.95
"One day we were all sittin'round
Smokin' black-head tobacco
And hearing Bob expound:
Hell, he said, was all humbug,
And he made it plain as day
That the bible was a fable,
and we 'lowed it looked that way.
Miracles and such like
Were too rank for him to stand,
And as for him they called the Savior
He was just a common man.
"Your a liar," someone shouted, Now this Bob weren't no coward
"And you got to take it back." And he answered bold and free:
Then everybody started-- "Stack your duds and cut your capers,
Twas the words of Silver Jack. For there ain't no flies on me."
And he cracked his fists together And they fit for forty minutes
And he stacked his duds and cried, And the crowd would whoop and cheer
"Twas in that religion When Jack spit up a tooth or two
That my mother lived and died; Or when Bobby lost an ear."
and though I haven't always
Used the Lord exactly right,
Yet when I hear a chump abuse him
He's got to eat his words or fight."
The remainder of the song tells of the end of the fight and Bob's sudden acceptance of the divinity of Christ and in Chrsitian brotherhood they passed a bottle of rot gut liquor around the room.
The granddaughter's short biography of her songcatcher grandfather and his work is an introduction to a fascinating and all to short a life. And who knew songcatcher was a job title and one ever operated in the state. The songs collected by Rickaby are pure gold and all the more interesting because many were born in Michigan's north woods. If you're drawn to intereting lives, American folklore, the wild and wooly lumbering era in Michigan and the Midwest, or American folk songs then, "stack your duds and cut your capers," and go out and get the book. Or just tap the book's image below to order it.
Rickaby, Franz. Dykstra, Gretchen. Leary, James P. Pinery Boys: Songs and Songcatching in the Lumberjack Era, University of Wisconsin Press, 2017, 356p. $25.95