The Royal Wulff Murders
A Montana Fly Fishing Mystery by Keith McCafferty
Review: Keith McCafferty introduces a community of (presumably recurring) characters investigating the murder of a young man in The Royal Wulff Murders, a mystery set along the Madison River in Montana.
The unidentified body is found in the river with a dry fishing fly, a Royal Wulff, embedded in his lip. County Sheriff Martha Ettinger and Deputy Walter Hess make inquiries to determine if someone is missing, but come up empty-handed. It's curious, though, that a newcomer to the area, Sean Stranahan, who has recently set up shop as a private investigator, is seen fishing with just that same fly just a day later. But Stranahan has his own reason for doing so. He's been hired by Vareda "Velvet" Lafayette, whose father had died while fishing the Madison River, and who wanted his ashes scattered over his favorite riffle on his favorite trout stream in the world. Trouble is, Vareda doesn't know where that is, only that her father always notched a "V" into the adipose fin of the fish he caught, and he always used a Royal Wulff tie.
The Royal Wulff Murders is more or less written as a two act play. The first act is the setup — and it's a terrific one — while the second act is the execution. There's a relaxed, but steady pace to the narrative that seems to mirror the whole fly fishing experience. Indeed, at one point Stranahan muses "that success rested upon touch more than it did on technology, and that technique took a backseat to concentration and desire. You fished a river by feel and your heart rode with the fly. The minute you let your mind wander, you were lost." But that's sort of what happens midway through the first "act". The focus seems to randomly shift to anything but the mystery at hand. Part of the problem — if, indeed, it can be deemed as such — seems to be that there is actually too much going on, that this nice simple mystery is evolving into something far more complicated. Once the second "act" shifts into gear at about the halfway point of the book, it's a matter of linking the various plot points together. This is all slightly disappointing since the deft elegance of the setup is at odds with the rather heavy-handed approach of the execution.
Finally, the descriptive and picturesque setting for The Royal Wulff Murders is almost a character in itself, an integral part of the story and one that enhances the overall reading experience. This is a good, solid start to this series, one that effectively bridges and incorporates several sub-genres — cozy, PI, police procedural, whodunit — of crime fiction.
Acknowledgment: Penguin Group provided an eARC of The Royal Wulff Murders for this review.
Review Copyright © 2012 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
The Gray Ghost Murders
Viking (Hardcover), February 2013
ISBN-13: 9780670025695; ISBN-10: 0670025690
Location(s) referenced in The Royal Wulff Murders: Montana
— ♦ —
The Royal Wulff Murders by Keith McCafferty — A Montana Fly Fishing Mystery
Publication Date: February 2012
List Price: $26.95
— ♦ —
Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
Mysterious Reviews is a Division of
The Hidden Staircase Mystery Books
and a Business Unit of the
Omnimystery Family of Mystery Websites