Wednesday, July 15, 2009

An Old Chaos-Sheila Simonson

An Old Chaos
Sheila Simonson
Perseverance press, Sep 2009, $14.95
ISBN: 9781880284995

Latouche County Sheriff Mack McCormick and his wife Beth moved into a McMansion on Prune Hill. They got a fabulous deal from developer Fred Drinkwater who made a substantial donation for Mack’s fifth term as sheriff. After dinner, Beth notices a crack on a wall going from top to bottom; she fixes it and does not give it another thought.

Police Officer Robert Neill’s cousin surveyed the site where the homes in Prune Hill are; his mentor classifies them as a Class II Landslide hazard Area. Drinkwater hires his own geologist to get the State to declare the location as Class III; the Board of Commissions approve. Rob warns the sheriff who ignores him. A couple of weeks later, the hill collapses, destroying the homes, killing the sheriff and others, and severely injuring many surviving residents. Drinkwater is found dead with the autopsy report ruling murder. The prevailing theory is that Drinkwater bribed someone to suppress the first assessment, but the most likely person to have done that is dead too. Rob struggles with investigating the tragedy that could have been prevented if avarice had not prevailed.

This terrific police procedural will resonate with readers as greed unchecked can go amuck. The culture of this small western Washington State county is a critical part of the tale as the tragedy impacts everyone including those living on the Klalos Reservation. The viewpoints change adding to the sadness as the characters before, during, and after the collapse make for a stirring intelligent story line.

Harriet Klausner