Results of the Hammett Prize in the year 2007.
In 1903 a mysterious, desperate young woman flees alone across the west, one quick step ahead of the law. She has just become a widow by her own hand.
Gil Adamson’s extraordinary novel opens in heart-pounding mid-flight and propels the reader through a gripping road trip with a twist—the steely outlaw in this story is a grief-struck nineteen-year-old woman. As the young widow encounters characters of all stripes—unsavoury, wheedling, greedy, lascivious, self-reliant, and occasionally generous and trustworthy—Adamson weds her brilliant literary style to the gripping, moving, picaresque tale of one woman’s deliberate journey into the wild.
When Gil Adamson published her first two books, a volume of poetry (Primitive; 1991) and a collection of stories (Help Me, Jacques Cousteau; 1995), readers immediately recognized a unique and unusually compelling voice, one that partnered the random and the surreal with a finely tuned technical brilliance. The Outlander more than fulfills the promise of that voice.
“A promise can change a life. Even a small, casual promise extended without much thought or contemplation.” So learns Sand Williams, who has returned to her childhood home in the Ozarks for a much-needed rest after years of working abroad as a journalist. She and her husband, Frank, a hydrologist who loves caves, have moved into a cabin that Sand inherited from her father on the beautiful Seven Point River. A mile upstream from Sand lives Norah Everston, and the two women couldn’t be more different. The only thing they have in common is the boundary of their land, but when Norah asks Sand to look in on her children when she and her husband go traveling, Sand reluctantly agrees, because she grew up in the Ozarks believing that you helped your neighbor out.
The kids are Timothy and Dahlia, the children of Norah and Lyman by previous marriages. Lyman’s daughter, Dahlia, eighteen and a winsome blonde, is working to raise funds for college, while Norah’s son, Timothy, a big, handsome boy described as…[more]
In Calabria, Italy, an American lawyer is missing, presumed kidnapped. A movie company is about to start filming the story of the Book of Revelation. An obsessed games player, richer than Croesus, is determined to find an ancient Roman statue that is buried under a river. A team of mercenaries is on its way there from Iraq to assist. And Aurelio Zen’s latest posting is Cosenza, Calabria, where the local chief of police has shot himself in the foot. Looking down on all this activity is the abandoned village of Altomonte, once the seat of the powerful Calopezzati family.
When the lawyer’s bloody corpse is discovered in Altomonte, Zen is determined to find a way to penetrate the local code of silence and uncover the truth. But his quest is quickly complicated by the lavish and clandestine treasure hunt, which Zen learns is being carried out by no ordinary fanatics.
Investigator Arkady Renko, the pariah of the Moscow prosecutor’s office, has been assigned the thankless job of investigating a new phenomenon: late-night subway riders report seeing the ghost of Joseph Stalin on the platform of the Chistye Prudy Metro station. The illusion seems part political hocus-pocus and also part wishful thinking, for among many Russians Stalin is again popular; the bloody dictator can boast a two-to-one approval rating. Decidedly better than that of Renko, whose lover, Eva, has left him for Detective Nikolai Isakov, a charismatic veteran of the civil war in Chechnya, a hero of the far right and, Renko suspects, a killer for hire. The cases entwine, and Renko’s quests become a personal inquiry fueled by jealousy.
The investigation leads to the fields of Tver outside of Moscow, where once a million soldiers fought. There, amidst the detritus, Renko must confront the ghost of his own father, a favorite general of Stalin’s. In these barren fields, patriots and shady entrepreneurs—the Red Diggers and Black Diggers—collect the bones, weapons and personal effects of slain World War II soldiers, and find that even among the dead there are surprises.
For sixty years, Jewish refugees and their descendants have prospered in the Federal District of Sitka, a “temporary” safe haven created in the wake of revelations of the Holocaust and the shocking 1948 collapse of the fledgling state of Israel. Proud, grateful, and longing to be American, the Jews of the Sitka District have created their own little world in the Alaskan panhandle, a vibrant, gritty, soulful, and complex frontier city that moves to the music of Yiddish. For sixty years they have been left alone, neglected and half-forgotten in a backwater of history. Now the District is set to revert to Alaskan control, and their dream is coming to an end: once again the tides of history threaten to sweep them up and carry them off into the unknown.
But homicide detective Meyer Landsman of the District Police has enough problems without worrying about the upcoming Reversion. His life is a shambles, his marriage a wreck, his career a disaster. He and his half-Tlingit partner, Berko Shemets, can’t…[more]