In the Jaws of a Dilemma
Randy Waters is the chief game warden for Trinidad, Colorado. He’s a big, affable, gregarious guy who adores his family and loves his work. He’s particularly known in the area for his knowledge of black bears.
He is called in by the local police to examine a grisly scene---the mutilated body of a young woman. All signs at the scene point to a bear kill---claw marks on the body, crushed skull, paw prints---but not by a black bear, but by a grizzly bear, a species not seen in Colorado in over 30 years. Because of what the police feels is obvious evidence of a bear mauling, they gladly turn the investigation and responsibility over to Waters. Although he can’t quite articulate it, Randy feels there’s something amiss about the young woman’s death, and that there are aspects at the scene that don’t quite conform to a bear kill. A week later, another young woman is found eviscerated, the scene hauntingly familiar to that found with the first woman. And, now, the local hysteria about a rogue bear on the prowl is amped, fueled in part by a sensationalistic and irresponsible press from Colorado Springs. Intense pressure is being applied to Randy to capture and kill the marauding bear, and he also has to contend with tamping down the irresponsible and dangerous behavior of overzealous, wannabe big-game hunters who are scouring the countryside for the grizzly bear.
Examining the site of the second woman’s death reinforces Randy’s feeling that the death of these two young women reflects a crime scene, not as bear kill, a theory that he knows will be refuted by the local police. So, Waters turns to a friend for help---a detective Don Pepper from the Colorado Springs Police Department. Pepper is almost the polar opposite of Waters. He’s an intense introspective man, uncomfortable with small talk, and not prone to developing close relationships. Yet, he and Waters developed a friendship over the years, forged in large part by their shared appreciation of the outdoors in general and fishing in particular. Pepper’s incisive detective and forensic skills quickly lead him to reaffirm Waters’ impression that the young women were not killed by a bear. This rather odd couple then embarks on a tortuous ride, accompanied by rogue characters, in an attempt to resolve the mystery of these young women’s deaths.
“Jaws of a Dilemma” is a very different kind of mystery story, more thoughtful than the run-of-the-mill novels with cookie-cutter superheroes. Angevine obviously knows and loves the Trinidad area. His pictured surroundings are authentic as is the mixture of people who live in them. He has done a great job of blending mystery, personalities, and a spectacular setting into a very entertaining story. I don’t know Angevine’s intentions with regard to continuing with the Waters and Pepper characters, but I would hope to see them again as I would hope to be able to revisit Trinidad’s canyon landscape that he describes in a lyrical fashion.
Newsletter Editor and Publisher
by Brian Angevine
This is the second short novel I've read by Angevine (the first was "In the Jaws of a Dilemma") which features Trinidad, Colorado game warden, Randy Waters. Waters is an affable, if not somewhat bumptious, guy who loves his job and the Trinidad area.
The bane of being a game warden is dealing with poachers whose motivations and acts run the gamut from a need for meat to feed self and/or family (somewhat understandable), to obtain a trophy (an unacceptable, egotistical act), to obtain body parts that have purported medicinal properties to sell on the black market (most repugnant). And, Randy runs up against two poachers who are taking certain body parts from game animals, leaving the carcasses to rot. Randy is intent on stopping the carnage, and the ensuing chase combines harrowing adrenaline rushes with a landscape described so vibrantly that it seems to have a life all its own.
Angevine is a creative guy---for example, the underlying premise of his novel "In the Jaws of a Dilemma" (which I won't reveal) appears to have been usurped in a subsequent episode of a TV mystery series. I hope Angevine continues with the Randy Waters series, and continues to evoke that haunting landscape in the Trinidad area.