The March/April 2017 issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine arrived, and I pounced on it. Listed on the cover is an author I enjoy reading, Martin Limon. Inside, I discovered an author new to me, Charles John Harper. Both tales ended with astonishing revelations and intriguing questions. There the similarity ends, as Limon's Hominid is set in Mongolia, while Harper's The Echoes takes place in rural Minnesota.
I have followed Limon's character Il-yong through adventures before. The half-Korean, half-American private detective operates outside of Beijing authority. A client meets Il-yong at a coffee shop, offering him a pile of money to find her husband.
So far, fairly standard PI parameters - the pretty female in trouble, a somewhat shady investigator for hire. As they take off in a private Learjet, Il-Yong wishes he had negotiated a higher fee. Then Hominid veers off in its own direction as the two head deep into the wilderness. Mrs. Korahm's missing husband is a paleontologist chasing the rumor of ancient humans in the remote Altai Mountains.
The story is a mystery, and clues are presented. However, the ending does not contain a neat solution. You are left to decide what really happened, although I have my own opinion.
In an entirely different setting, but with an equally interesting ending, Harper's main character is recently widowed Pope County Sheriff Dan Parrish. The pain of his loss washes the story in gray. Setting descriptions are beautifully done, dropping the reader effectively into the Minnesota woods.
Harper's neighbor is dead. He suspects her creepy lawyer husband. Parrish diligently searches for the clues that will implicate the obviously guilty husband. A lazy coroner makes his job more difficult, as Parrish oversees the autopsy, giving advice on what to look for to the reluctant doctor.
The ending leaves questions, as in Limon's Hominid. In The Echoes, I wondered what the characters would do next, although I had an idea of how things might go. In Hominid, the questions were more a choice about which scenario you were willing to believe.
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