Burnt River, by Karin Salvalaggio

Burnt River, by Karin Salvalaggio

Burnt River is the second in the Macy Greeley Mysteries, the first being Bone Dust White. Macy is a detective in the state police and is based in Helena, the capital city of Montana. She’s been called up to the small town of Wilmington Creek to investigate the murder of a young war veteran, John Dalton, who has been shot in the back of the head outside of a bar in the middle of the night.

Wilmington Creek is a quiet place. The sheriff, Aiden Marsh, has been there for seven years and has barely had a crime to solve. Jeremy Dalton, the father of the murdered man, owns one of the largest ranches in the area, and it’s down to his connections with the state governor that Macy has been called in. There’s pressure to get the case solved, and fast.

The Daltons may own a beautiful property, but they still have problems. For a start, there’s Jeremy’s wife, Annie, suffering from onset dementia, obsessively documenting her memories and hinting of secrets kept hidden. John’s twin sister, Jessie, has cleaned up from her drug- and alcohol-filled past, but what is her connection with Ethan Green, local militia leader and sworn enemy of the family? And what does it have to do with John’s long-standing friends (and army comrades) Dylan and Tyler?

As Macy investigates, she’s battling the distractions of her private life. Her young son, Luke,  is being looked after by her mother whilst she is away but she still misses him. And there’s the little problem of her boss, Ray Davidson, head of the state police and father of Luke. He doesn’t seem to be leaving his wife any time soon, and he’s never available when Macy needs to talk to him.

From the atmospheric prologue onwards, this is a book oozing with the sense of place. The Flathead River, surrounded by pines and cliffs, the sweeping cattle-land, the horses: it’s all built up with deft ease to surround the reader, appealing to every sense. There’s a slowness to the prose, mirroring the pace of life in this remote community. And the tensions of that community are layered throughout. The connections and histories of the friends and neighbours – joined as they are by love and war and deception – build to to an explosive climax, but they don’t explain the death of a young woman, found with a gunshot wound in her shoulder and ligature marks on her wrists.

I love crime novels, especially with a female lead. Some of my favourites are from US writers: Jane Rizzoli, V.I. Warshawski, Kinsey Millhone. Salvalaggio is still waiting for a UK publishing deal, and I hope it happens soon. She’s right up there with my favourites, and I’d love her to be more widely read over here. So search this out. You’ll be so glad you did.


Burnt River is published by Minotaur Books and you can buy it in the UK here.

You can find Karin’s website here and follow her on Twitter as @karinsalvalo


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