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I wish that Don Bredes wrote more frequently. It has been a number of years since his excellent COLD COMFORT was published; the wait between that and THE FIFTH SEASON, his new novel, was almost excruciating. Still, I am reminded while reading THE FIFTH SEASON that good, even wonderful, things come to those who wait, and who wait with patience. Fair enough.
THE FIFTH SEASON heralds the return of Hector Bellevance, ensconced in his job as the town constable of Tipton, Vermont, a post that at times seems to carry more ceremony than actual authority. Bellevance is adjusting to the aftermath of the events in COLD
COMFORT, which saw him leave his position as a Boston policeman under a cloud, while his wife left him as well, confessing a
longstanding affair and leaving him in doubt of the paternity of the child he thought was his. Bellevance’s time since then has been quietly but satisfyingly filled by going about his assigned law enforcement duties, growing vegetables to sell at a farmer’s market to supplement his income, and dating Wilma Strong, the star reporter for the local paper.
But this semi-idyllic existence is shattered when Marcel Boisvert, an eccentric and contrary town father, apparently goes berserk when served a peace order sworn out by his wife Shirley. The county sheriff and town clerk are murdered in the aftermath and it is left to Bellevance, with the aid of the county sheriff’s department, to find Boisvert and protect Shirley, who seems to be his ultimate
target. But Boisvert has seemingly vanished without a trace, and it becomes the opinion of at least some of the investigators that Bellevance, among a literal host of others, should be a suspect in the killings.
Bredes’s plotting in this regard, particularly in the final two thirds of the book, is so brilliant that it might well bring tears
to your eyes. As law enforcement, including Bellevance, stumble through the possibilities, the reader is left with the sensation that the murderer could well be literally anyone. This creates a level of tension that builds, slowly but surely and exquisitely, throughout THE FIFTH SEASON, without strain or drain. There are legitimate reasons to suspect everyone, and when all is ultimately
revealed and long simmering grudges and quiet feuds are revealed to the light of day, the ultimate culprit is a plausible one as well.
Bellevance may not be the smartest cop in fiction, that largest of precincts, but he is certainly one of the most quietly likable and
believable. He makes mistakes — at one point he tromps, albeit unknowingly, in his stocking feet through a pool of blood, and
occasionally he is afflicted with tunnel vision–but his innate and deep sense of decency as well as his doggedness ultimately hold
him true. His romantic life is a bit of a mess–but whose isn’t?–and by the end of THE FIFTH SEASON it appears that more changes are in store for him.
Hopefully we will not have to wait several years for Bredes’s next effort. If we do, however, it no doubt will be worth it. This is a
highly recommended work by an author who is woefully under-appreciated.
— Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub, Bookreporter.com