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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Review: The Slickrock Paradox

by Stephen Legault

Opening line: She was not there.

The first paragraph of this claustrophobic, taut tale takes us, paradoxically, to the wide-open Utah desert, where Silas Pearson is searching for a missing woman. He knows his quest is likely hopeless. This expanse of red sandstone may look flat but it is creased with crevices, some of them hundreds of feet deep. An unwary hiker might break an ankle stumbling across a narrow rift and die of heat exhaustion under the sun, or fall into black depths and drown as the next rainstorm funnels through the gully. Yet Silas keeps looking, obsessively mapping the terrain a few days each week, marking off his search areas in 7.5 inch grid squares on the small-scale topographical maps that paper his living room walls. He has done this, we learn, for the past three-plus years, seeking his wife.

By the end of Chapter One, I shared Silas’ obsession, drawn in by his close observation of the rock itself, by his attention to every nuance of weather and geography that might offer a clue to her end. My desire to learn his wife’s fate, and to understand the web of emotions that drove his obsessive hunt, carried my eyes from sentence to sentence, page to page, while the sere landscape built itself in my mind.

The Slickrock Paradox takes us through terrain as unforgiving on the outside as Silas’ inner country is to him. This is a novel for those who love wilderness as passionately as they do a gripping, suspenseful mystery.

#1 in The Red Rock Canyon Mysteries

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