Alan Heathcock, "Peacekeeper"

A reluctant small-town sherrif’s murder investigation becomes a sort of cover-up.

(from The Virginia Quarterly Review, Vol. 81, number 4)

The VQR table of contents promised a “tale of suspense” and that’s pretty much what this was. But the tension came more from how the action unfolded than what the action was itself, thanks to non-chronological arrangement of its elements. It jumped around among three or four different days/scenes in a neat way that unfolded the primary murder mystery early, but not in a confusing or useless way. The time-jumps are labeled like shuffled journal entries, so you’re with the sherriff sneaking up on the suspect in the snow, then you’re visiting the family of the victim on Christmas, then you’re with her as she steers a boat through her now-flooded town (parts of which called to mind recent news footage).
The story was dark and humorless. Maybe it’s what people mean when they call a story “hard-boiled.” Or maybe not, because the main character was manipulative, understanding and self-doubting, not slick, confident and cold like some noirish cartoon detective. There were parts I didn’t get (like why was the town flooded?), but not all mysteries should be unraveled.

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