CAVIAR ON RITZ

Review

DEATH ROE: A WOODS COP MYSTERY

Joseph Heywood

This book reminds me that I ate caviar when I was a child – on Ritz crackers. It was served at resorts in northern Michigan and Wisconsin, as it was plentiful in the region in the late 1940s. Now I know a lot more about the industry, the Russians, and the little black eggs of sturgeon fished from rivers and lakes around the Great Lakes, and the red eggs of salmon. Today caviar can cost $2,500 a pound. No wonder, then, that there is international trafficking involved, and several more kinds of fish found in the U.S. In 2013 seven men were arrested for taking paddlefish eggs in Missouri.

This fictional account of trafficking is straight environmental history, but the focus of this plot is on corruption in just about every agency accountable. I find pleasure in the weirdness of the population of Grady’s turf. This time, the CO acts on information he gets from Limpy Allerdyce, a local poacher whose wife Honeypat is available to other members of his elusive clan. His persistence takes him from the U.P. to Lansing, to New York, and to Costa Rica.

The Woods Cop series might be classified as “buddy lit” though many readers believe women would like it. I do – but that’s because in my childhood I lived in Upper Michigan, and with the conservation ethic. In these pages I can enjoy revisiting woods and lakes and trout streams in lieu of actually returning at my advanced age. A line like, “A sloppy vee of geese passed…” is deeply satisfying.

Otherwise, Joseph Heywood has delivered pretty much a matter of male fantasy: His hero is super-trained, tough, more righteous than your average man. He attracts women like flies. When he actually falls in love, by the miracle of a large bequest he is able to do nice things for everyone he cares about. Also, he doesn’t ever retire, at least he hasn’t yet. You can stay with him from fairly young man into “almost past it,” which gives you a lesson in recent U.S. history. I have read just two of the books but will return when I have more time (they are fairly long).

What seems remarkable to me about the author is that he can make local and state politics and commerce and corruption every bit as exciting as anything based on international intrigue. He shows respect for those respectfully in service (perhaps that is the point of the hero’s name) – and never talks down to the reader or to most of the characters, no matter how clueless people might be in the small towns that provide his canvas. In spite of the testosterone gloss on this series, I really like Joseph Heywood as a person. He’s an accomplished writer, a teacher, a moral guide.  He reminds me of my dad.

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