Monday, June 30, 2008

Guest Blog--Three Sisters by James D. Doss

While traveling a few weeks ago, I read Shaman Sings by James D. Doss (Paperback – 1994). I had picked it up at my favorite thrift store, Deseret Industries, years ago and threw it in my suitcase as a likely read when I flew to Canada for a five-weeks stay. For years I have been a fan of Tony Hillerman and his Navajo detectives Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee and have been attracted to other mystery books with a similar theme.

I was not disappointed when I read Shaman Sings. I liked the flavor of the old Ute Shaman, Aunt Daisy, and her favorite nephew, Charlie Moon. In fact, Charlie Moon plays such a small role in the novel that I was surprised when I checked and discovered that Doss’ books have ‘A Charlie Moon Mystery’ printed on the covers.

There were moments in the book when I was not quite sure whether Aunt Daisy is supposed to be seeing and hearing characters from Ute lore or whether she is just using peyote or some other substance. I never did come to any conclusion. Chief of police Scott Parris of Granite Creek, Colorado helps to keep the story grounded in reality.

The book has a flavor of mystic and reality about it, and I decided that I would look for more James Doss books at my local library. After I unpacked my suitcase, I headed for the library and found the most recent Charlie Moon mystery. Usually, I would not go from an author's first novel to the most recent, but I was prompted to do so by the fact that it was available and had a shorter circulation time than older books.

I have dragged my feet for the last five days reading Three Sisters. The main characters are the same. Charlie is more handsome and wise than ever. Aunt Daisy is more unorthodox, and Scott is pricklier than he was 14 years ago.

My problem was that there is a different presentation to the story. Shaman Sings is a classic Southwestern who-done-it, while Three Sisters has picked up a narrator with an interesting sense of humor. For example: “As he lowered the tailgate, the Columbine hound looked up at the boss, opened his mouth...`I bet you’d like to go for a walk.’ No. Dogs cannot talk. This was the human being speaking.” The book is full of asides by the narrator. He acts as if he and I have settled down by the fire while he recounts the mystery. I am still not sure if I like the style.

The story is about three wealthy sisters living in smalltown Colorado. Cassandra is a psychic with a local television show. Somehow, while she is on the air, she is able to see violence at the very moment it occurs. Meanwhile, another sister meets with a grisly death. She apparently is mauled by a bear. The many threads of the tale come together to make a satisfying picture by the end of the book.

The characters were well limned, and in the last few pages, I think I fell for Charlie. He is an extraordinary person. I guess I’ll be checking out some of the older books written by Doss. I wonder when the transition in storytelling style occurred.

If I discover when it did, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, I am going to start on the latest Jesse Stone novel by Robert B. Parker. I’ll let you know how Jesse is handling alcohol and his ex-wife.


Blogger said...

Thanks for introducing me to my new favorite word: limned.

notaconnoisseur said...

I just hope that I used it correctly.

Phyllis said...

Great work.