The book is about one lawman's search for a very bad man. But the search is mixed with Indian lore and the limits of endurance on a snow covered mountain. It seems long and drawn out, even while it is making a lot of interesting points. There is a lot of discussion of The Inferno, which is not the sort of thing you find in most mysteries. Credit to the author for writing something very original, and trying to lay bare the human soul.
You can say Polk was a successful president for grabbing California (and the rest of the West) from a weak and disorganized Mexico. He also sorted out the Tariff issue, and the banking structures, something that had weighed on the country for several decades. Of course, there was the slavery issue, and Polk didn't feel that merited much discussion. Later on, well, there was a price to be paid for that. I associate the reader, Michael Prichard, with the Spenser series. He does so well with Spenser, I kept wondering if it would be possible for him to do serious history. In fact, he rarely sounds like Spenser, which suggests he is a really great reader. Polk set out to do what he wanted to do, and it basically killed him. We know huge problems could not be resolved, but we know California is a jewel. There are not many heroic people in this book, truth be told, and the level of ego is off the scale at every corner.
This is a very solid series of mysteries. Even though this is close to the middle, the setting has barely budged from the 80's where it began. Which is fine, in a world of gadgets, because everything is simpler (and the book was written in '97). The books have a lot of little insights and little snippets of humor. Characters are described at length, and there is a general sense of gray (not truly dark) everywhere. This is probably one of the darker in the series, being about a woman (the deceased) who is a very successful prostitute. Basically, this is the meat of the series, that the people are complicated, and there are lots of corners to explore. Most of the books in the series have a lot to say about how hard it is to be young, and how tragic it often turns out to be. If you want a long series of books to read, the Grafton's are a good possibility.
There were a few people, like Ron Insana, who talked about the emerging problems, the excesses, in the 90's. He gave up, and so did most others. Everyone became a cheerleader and everything was 'fine' for a few years, despite the tech bubble collapse. But the 2008 collapse is proving difficult to fix, and there has been no recovery, to date.
This book pretty much explains the extent of the problem. It is deadly serious and seriously funny, thanks to the writing style and the over the top excess of everything described.
It's definitely worth the time and money and it's a book that works great as an audiobook.
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