Reviewed by Wendy Hawkin
Fans of Thomas King and his serene, sensible, and sly, alter-ego, Thumps DreadfulWater, will be delighted to know his latest DreadfulWater Mystery is out, and it’s one of the best yet—a mischievous, slow-paced, cozy, infused with King’s trademark comedic wittiness, characters who are old friends, and a cup of sugar. Both down-to-earth and defying gravity as an eco-mystery, Deep House follows closely on Obsidian.
The “perhaps” love of his life, Claire, has adopted a young child named Ivory, and Thumps is embracing the idea of fatherhood; the only problem is that Claire doesn’t seem to embrace Thumps with the same vigour she once did. In fact, she finds his presence “disconcerting.” Oh oh. Add to this, his trepidation around changing his photographic mode from film to digital during a waning pandemic, and Thumps is left facing a true “Thelma and Louise moment.”
King’s always told us his version of the truth, so he doesn’t shy away from that “dreadful” subject Covid. As the pandemic “normalizes” people are beginning to gather outside again as they are now. The locals convene at Al’s café for the usual hijinks and witty political philosophizing. King invites us into discussions involving everything from photography to paint shades to prostate problems. And with surprising literary agility, he describes the passing of gas from Pops, the neighbour’s Komondor (big shaggy dog) without ever mentioning the word—“which is when the air on the porch went black … Thumps stumbled backwards, momentarily blinded by the smell that had exploded out of the dog … tried to get his eyes to focus” (100). This takes skill.
Many crime novels are plot-driven. This one is not. Yes, Thumps inadvertently photographs a body in the boulders at the bottom of Deep House—a treacherous canyon on the local reserve near Chinook—and unravels a mystery. But what makes this story are the characters. Cooley Small Elk, big-hearted and anything but small, and his grandfather, Moses Blood; Archie Kousoulas, bookstore owner, who invites everyone to the pre-opening of Pappou’s, his new Greek restaurant; the laconic sheriff Duke Hockney; and the charming “ninja assassin” Cisco Cruz.
But more’s been tossed over the canyon wall into the crater than ancient appliances and a body. Folks have been using it to get rid of their junk for years, and the discovery of several painted panels pushes this eco-mystery into the landscape of corporate conspiracy.
Now the sugar. Fans will remember the disappearance of Thumps’s cat, Freeway. In this story, the cat comes back with a passel of surprises that draw out the man’s sensitive nature, making book six the sweetest installment of the series.
If you’ve never waded into the dry waters of Chinook, this is a great place to start to feel the true genius of the man and his imperturbable crime-fighting personality, Thumps DreadfulWater.
Deep House is published by HarperCollins, 2022
W. L. Hawkin’s latest release, Lure: Jesse & Hawk is a small-town romantic suspense novel set on a Chippewa reservation in the American Midwest. She publishes with Blue Haven Press.