Firesong by Aaron Lazar

What would you do if your country church was hit by a rogue tornado during services? What if the shrieking winds unearthed the bones of a missing parishioner in a nearby wheat field? Now add the discovery of heroin in your elderly minister’s bloodstream. When Gus LeGarde is thrown into the middle of the mess, he knows life’s finally gone berserk in East Goodland, New York.
The Genesee Valley is in chaos. Strangers drive panel vans through the countryside at weird hours of the night. A new batch of drugs is on the street, endangering local. The local salt mine collapses due to illegal mining practices. Gas fires burn in wells. Watering holes turn to brine. Crops are dying. Tempers are short. To top it off, the new salt mine lies directly over ancient Indian burial grounds, bringing anguish to local tribes.
While Gus faces ordeals delivered by nature and man, his wife Camille discovers a hidden room in their house. She digs through historical archives to learn that the 1811 original homeowner, Mary Hill, may have had connections with the Underground Railroad. When local grave robbers begin to loot historic coffins, they find an empty coffin. Who killed Mary? How did she die? Where is her body? And where will this two-hundred-year-old mystery lead?
Join Gus as he’s lured into a bizarre network of underground tunnels to expose the most shocking discovery ever to rock the Genesee Valley.

The fifth instalment of the Gus LeGarde series.

I'm not quite sure what to label this book as. It's a mystery book, but I would have thought that such a genre would include some sort of detective work one way or another. In this, the main character Gus just happens to always find himself where things happen and stumbles upon the mysteries *and* their solutions.

Except for a fair amount of plot triggers (happenings that could evolve into something major), the first 120 pages are mostly about Gus' idyllic family life and him cooking. Don't ask me to clarify who's who and how they're related, because I'm rather lost in the midst of names and characters who's all got some very heavy back story, which was elaborated in the earlier books (which I haven't read). On top of that the following massive amount of different story lines were a bit of a mess and some of them a bit too much.

About halfway in, I finally got a better grip on what this book's main plot actually was (though I still found it pretty vague) and from then on things moved quickly - and to be honest too many things happened. I don't think a day goes by without some natural disaster, murder or other criminal event taking place and it just seems a bit over the top. It's an unfortunate thing,  where I shook my head and went "yeah, right." and the story lost credibility. Gus and his family, if not the entire community, have to be the most unfortunate people ever with all the things they go through, yet still they always come out (mostly) unharmed.

The book is well written though and is a fairly quick read, but I never really felt truly engaged in it and Gus just didn't appeal to me much. Because of the overflow of dramatic events I felt that the tension completely evaporated, but it makes it ideal as a feel-good, stress-free book for a warm summer day, and despite all my complaints I did still enjoy reading it.

289 pages / published in 2011
Review by Iben Jakobsen, BoB, 2011

Many thanks to the author for supplying me with a copy of the book.


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