Wes Breazeale

he Pacific Northwest is a region that defies simple categorization. Although most people automatically associate it with rain, the Northwest is in fact a complex and varied area, with volcanoes over 14,000 feet tall, the deepest gorge in the country, desert areas and the only rain forest in North America. A River Out of Eden, a new novel from John Hockenberry, is just as varied as the region, and just as intriguing.

The book is set on the Columbia River, which flows from Canada through Washington and Oregon. At times a thoughtful, eloquently written character study, and at others a fast-paced thriller, A River Out of Eden succeeds on both levels.

The story begins with the mysterious deaths of several federal employees who were working to maintain the dwindling levels of salmon in the Columbia River. Francine Smohalla, a Chinook Indian and government biologist working with the salmon, is the first to discover a body, this one floating in a salmon breeding tank next to the Bonneville Dam. Soon, Duke McCurdy, the son of a white supremacist, and Duane Madison, chief of security for the Hanford Nuclear Reserve in eastern Oregon, find the bodies of two more salmon workers. Each victim appears to have been killed with a Native American salmon harpoon. As the body count rises, the lives and stories of the characters begin to collide.

Why these people have been killed, and by whom, is only the tip of the iceberg. Hockenberry, who wrote about the challenges of working as a wheelchair-bound journalist in Moving Violations, is an Emmy-winning correspondent for NBC's Dateline. In his first work of fiction, he creates believable characters and ties them together with a story that traces the long and varied history of Native Americans along the Columbia River. In addition to Francine, Duke and Duane, there is a large supporting cast, all with rich stories that add to the narrative. And with right wing extremism, racial and economic tensions, and record-setting rains thrown into the mix, Hockenberry has created a potent blend that reflects the conflicting beliefs and cultural traditions of the region. When floodwaters begin to threaten dams along the river, it seems an ancient Indian prediction of the apocalypse might prove true.

A River Out of Eden is mysterious, enthralling and powerful, an apt tribute to the river on which it is set.

Wes Breazeale is a freelance writer who lives in the Pacific Northwest.

he Pacific Northwest is a region that defies simple categorization. Although most people automatically associate it with rain, the Northwest is in fact a complex and varied area, with volcanoes over 14,000 feet tall, the deepest gorge in the country, desert areas and the only rain forest in North America. A River Out of Eden, […]

Waking up with a hangover on the bathroom floor of a train station is never an enticing proposition. But doing so with absolutely no recollection of who you are or how you got there is even more unpleasant. Unfortunately, that is exactly the predicament faced by Luke, the protagonist in Ken Follett's latest thriller, Code to Zero.

Luke is a man without an identity, yet he possesses skills no homeless drunk would have. He effortlessly completes a crossword puzzle; he has no difficulty disarming and subduing an aggressive police officer; and he seems to know French. But he does not know who he is.

Set over less than 48 hours in 1958, Code to Zero takes place during the height of the American space race with the Soviet Union. The countdown for launch has begun for Explorer I, America's best hope to catch the Soviet Sputnik and regain the lead in space exploration.

As Luke tries to find out who he is and why he's important enough to have his identity erased, he uncovers long-kept secrets about four old friends from Harvard. The cast of characters is diverse: Anthony Carroll, now head of the Technical Services branch of the recently formed CIA; Billie Josephson, a brilliant researcher at Georgetown Mind Hospital; Bern Rothsten, Billie's ex-husband, now a famous author, and a longtime friend and rival of Luke's; and Luke's wife Elspeth, of whom he has no recollection.

Time is running out for Luke to reclaim his identity. He knows something that someone would like him to forget, and he realizes the key to piecing his life back together is somehow tied to the rocket that stands ready to launch at Cape Canaveral.

The author demonstrates a convincing understanding of American culture and language. Many readers may not be aware that Follett is British, and after reading Code to Zero they wouldn't suspect it.

Follett has made a name for himself by writing taut, well-researched thrillers, and Code to Zero is no exception.

 

Wes Breazeale is a freelance writer living in the Pacific Northwest.

Waking up with a hangover on the bathroom floor of a train station is never an enticing proposition. But doing so with absolutely no recollection of who you are or how you got there is even more unpleasant. Unfortunately, that is exactly the predicament faced by Luke, the protagonist in Ken Follett's latest thriller, Code […]

Edward Rollins is worth something in the neighborhood of $2 million dollars. He works at an investment firm in Boston in a dead end job, and he has no aspirations to move higher. He was once a reporter but he got burned out when he took a certain story too far. He is also a voyeur. Following people and watching their mundane lives is the one thing he enjoys no one in particular, just a random car here or there. He details each “pursuit” on a tape recorder, and through this hobby, he comes alive.

One night he follows an Audi chosen for no particular reason. As he tails the car north out of Boston, it proceeds as a normal pursuit for Rollins. However, following a number of quick, unsignaled turns, the Audi pulls into a quiet residential neighborhood and parks in front of an unassuming house. The driver quickly heads to the door, unlocks it, and slips inside. Rollins is perplexed and a little unnerved though, when no lights are turned on. Fearing that he was spotted and wanting to avoid confrontation, Rollins heads off into the night.

That experience rattles and unnerves him to the point that he breaks one of his own rules; he shares some personal information with someone. That lucky person is a younger co-worker named Marj. She is eager to learn more and actively pumps Rollins for further details. And that's when the troubles begin.

The Dark House is a tense and intriguing debut novel from author John Sedgwick. He has created a complex and troubled hero in Edward Rollins, and a spunky, if somewhat less fleshed out, heroine in Marj. Both characters behave in a realistic fashion. There are no unbelievable heroics, no Einsteinian leaps of logic, simply basic human reaction. Granted, Rollins has his problems, and his family is certainly dysfunctional, but the characters are the heart of this story, and they do not disappoint.

Sedgwick has a way with words as well. He has created a multi-layered mystery, which does not immediately surrender its secrets.

While readers may begin to intuit the direction the mystery is heading, Sedgwick is able to throw them off the trail with unexplained twists. Each time the plot appears to be sorting itself out another surprise is added, keeping his reader in suspense until the very end.

Wes Breazeale is a freelance writer living in the Pacific Northwest. The fact that he grew up in an unassuming house north of Boston is purely coincidence. Really.

Edward Rollins is worth something in the neighborhood of $2 million dollars. He works at an investment firm in Boston in a dead end job, and he has no aspirations to move higher. He was once a reporter but he got burned out when he took a certain story too far. He is also a […]

Pilot Airie may be losing his mind. Twenty years ago, Pilot's sister, Fiona, disappeared without a trace. Nothing has been the same since. The disappearance caused his family to unravel; his father left, his brother grew distant, and his mother now sees ghosts. Pilot has now taken it upon himself to pull it all together again, assuming that he doesn't unravel first.

Raveling is a genuinely gripping and eloquent debut novel by Peter Moore Smith. This novel has the basic structure of a mystery an unsolved disappearance, puzzled and puzzling characters, suspicions on all sides but it is more a psychological exploration than a straight mystery. Smith doesn't focus on the details of the disappearance. This is not a book with detailed passages on forensics or lab reports. His focus is on the characters and their interactions.

The story begins as Pilot returns home from California, where his brother found him living on a beach. Because his mother's vision is failing, Pilot has agreed to live at home to help her. All is going well until he begins to hear voices: the electricity in light bulbs talks to him, the woods behind the house beckon to him.

Eventually Pilot is hospitalized. There, his counselor Katherine takes an interest in his case. As she probes deeper into his past, trying to find a trigger for his psychotic episode, she becomes fascinated with the stories of his lost sister. What could have caused her disappearance? Who could have taken her without leaving a single trace? As she digs deeper into Pilot's memories, things really start to get interesting.

Raveling is an unusual mystery. It starts slowly, as if the reader has stepped into a story already in progress. But the deeper into the book readers get, the deeper the mystery becomes, and the greater the urge to read on. Unlike many mysteries, in which the unfolding of the story provides a greater understanding, Raveling offers little in the way of clues. This is primarily due to the fact that the protagonist, Pilot, may not be entirely sane.

Yet Pilot's struggle with his sanity is one of the most intriguing and appealing aspects of the book. The entire story is told from his point of view, that of a medicated schizophrenic. If he himself cannot be certain of the facts, cannot be sure of his own perceptions, how can the reader? There are times when the reader must ponder the question, Is this a clue or a delusion? This uncertainty adds immensely to the pleasure of reading this book. Smith's descriptions of Pilot's deluded worldview are beautifully written and captivating, providing insight into his state of mind.

If you enjoy a literary mystery, or enjoy discovering a talented new writer, Raveling is the book for you.

Wes Breazeale is a writer in the Pacific Northwest.

Pilot Airie may be losing his mind. Twenty years ago, Pilot's sister, Fiona, disappeared without a trace. Nothing has been the same since. The disappearance caused his family to unravel; his father left, his brother grew distant, and his mother now sees ghosts. Pilot has now taken it upon himself to pull it all together […]

Pilot Airie may be losing his mind. Twenty years ago, Pilot's sister, Fiona, disappeared without a trace. Nothing has been the same since. The disappearance caused his family to unravel; his father left, his brother grew distant, and his mother now sees ghosts. Pilot has now taken it upon himself to pull it all together again, assuming that he doesn't unravel first.

Raveling is a genuinely gripping and eloquent debut novel by Peter Moore Smith. This novel has the basic structure of a mystery an unsolved disappearance, puzzled and puzzling characters, suspicions on all sides but it is more a psychological exploration than a straight mystery. Smith doesn't focus on the details of the disappearance. This is not a book with detailed passages on forensics or lab reports. His focus is on the characters and their interactions.

The story begins as Pilot returns home from California, where his brother found him living on a beach. Because his mother's vision is failing, Pilot has agreed to live at home to help her. All is going well until he begins to hear voices: the electricity in light bulbs talks to him, the woods behind the house beckon to him.

Eventually Pilot is hospitalized. There, his counselor Katherine takes an interest in his case. As she probes deeper into his past, trying to find a trigger for his psychotic episode, she becomes fascinated with the stories of his lost sister. What could have caused her disappearance? Who could have taken her without leaving a single trace? As she digs deeper into Pilot's memories, things really start to get interesting.

Raveling is an unusual mystery. It starts slowly, as if the reader has stepped into a story already in progress. But the deeper into the book readers get, the deeper the mystery becomes, and the greater the urge to read on. Unlike many mysteries, in which the unfolding of the story provides a greater understanding, Raveling offers little in the way of clues. This is primarily due to the fact that the protagonist, Pilot, may not be entirely sane.

Yet Pilot's struggle with his sanity is one of the most intriguing and appealing aspects of the book. The entire story is told from his point of view, that of a medicated schizophrenic. If he himself cannot be certain of the facts, cannot be sure of his own perceptions, how can the reader? There are times when the reader must ponder the question, Is this a clue or a delusion? This uncertainty adds immensely to the pleasure of reading this book. Smith's descriptions of Pilot's deluded worldview are beautifully written and captivating, providing insight into his state of mind.

If you enjoy a literary mystery, or enjoy discovering a talented new writer, Raveling is the book for you.

Wes Breazeale is a writer in the Pacific Northwest.

Pilot Airie may be losing his mind. Twenty years ago, Pilot's sister, Fiona, disappeared without a trace. Nothing has been the same since. The disappearance caused his family to unravel; his father left, his brother grew distant, and his mother now sees ghosts. Pilot has now taken it upon himself to pull it all together […]

Born and raised in Houston, Texas, outdoor/conservation writer Rick Bass attended Utah State University to study wildlife management but later switched to petroleum engineering because it seemed more practical. That did not last. His connection to nature and his desire to be in it caused him to hop into a pick-up truck with his wife one day and just start driving, not knowing where they would end up. Their search led them to the Yaak Valley in northern Montana where Bass now lives and works. This valley formed the foundation for the stories that unfold in his beautiful first novel, Where the Sea Used to Be.

Where the Sea Used to Be is, first and foremost, a character study. It does not thrust you immediately into a tightly wound plot, but instead slowly reveals the many layers of the main characters. This is the story of a clash of wills the story of the struggle between a father and daughter, and two men: his proteges, her lovers. Old Dudley is a wildly successful oil prospector with a system. He delights in taking a raw, young geologist and breaking him, eventually molding him to his will and in the process invariably crushing him. Matthew represents one of his greatest successes, having found innumerable oil fields, but he is nearly broken, approaching the end of his usefulness. He is also the somewhat estranged lover of Old Dudley's daughter, Mel. Wallis is Dudley's newest project. After putting Wallis to work with Matthew in Houston, Old Dudley sends him North, to a remote and isolated valley in Montana the same valley where Mel lives and studies wolves.

What follows is a gradual unveiling of life in the valley. Each chapter contains separate vignettes of the valley's way of life, held together by a peaceful narrative. Bass's descriptions of the valley illustrate the intertwined nature of humans and their surroundings, as well as the struggle between nature and intrusion of humankind. His writing, like that of Thoreau or Aldo Leopold, is the voice of someone who is at peace with the world in which he lives. He does not write about nature so much as feels it, and the most beautiful part of the book is that he is able to convey to the reader that sense of understanding, of awe and wonder. Where the Sea Used to Be is a serene and languid book. It does not urge you to finish, but rather to enjoy the experience, to savor the descriptions and to become one with the valley and its people. Reading Where the Sea Used to Be is like taking a slow hike through the hills, or canoeing down a lazy river. In no rush to get anywhere, you are able to enjoy the sights, the sounds, the smells. Bass reminds us that we should do this more often, and after reading the Where the Sea Used to Be, you will most likely agree.

Reviewed by Wes Breazeale.

Born and raised in Houston, Texas, outdoor/conservation writer Rick Bass attended Utah State University to study wildlife management but later switched to petroleum engineering because it seemed more practical. That did not last. His connection to nature and his desire to be in it caused him to hop into a pick-up truck with his wife […]

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