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Buried in Stone: A Mel Pickett Mystery    by Eric Wright order for
Buried in Stone
by Eric Wright
Order:  USA  Can
Scribner, 2001 (1996)
Hardcover, Paperback
* *   Reviewed by G. Hall

Mysteries by Eric Wright are always reliably enjoyable, including this one which was originally published in 1996. For many years Wright wrote well-plotted novels about Toronto police officer Charlie Salter. He more recently branched out, writing several about PI Lucy Trimble, including Death on the Rocks in 2002. In Buried in Stone, he has created a different protagonist altogether. Mel Pickett is a retired Toronto police officer living part time in rural northern Ontario where he is building himself a log cabin. Mel is a self-sufficient 70-something man 'trying to avoid turning into a cute old fart who talked to his dog'.

The cabin is on the outskirts of small Larch River which serves both seasonal cottagers as well as permanent residents. Wright displays a deft hand in the creation of a variety of three-dimensional characters. For anyone who has spent summer time in an area like Larch River and wondered what in the world people do during the off-season, this book provides some possibilities. This being a mystery, of course a dead body is discovered early on in the woods near Pickett's cabin. Local police chief Lyman Caxton, used only to dealing with rowdy parties and illegal hunting, comes to Pickett for help. The corpse is identified as the brother of Caxton's girlfriend, who immediately starts acting strangely. Then one of the brother's worthless pals is arrested, and the case seems to be settled.

But when the arrestee's mother comes to Pickett for help, swearing that her son could not have killed anyone, Pickett begins to wonder. To his seasoned detective's mind, things just do not add up. Buried in Stone does drag a bit in the middle but then picks up interest as Pickett goes on a transcontinental train journey to Winnipeg to check on the victim's background. His lyrical descriptions of the scenery he views from the train, and later a bush plane, are a paean to the beauty of the still undeveloped Canadian wilderness. Pickett is a well-written character and a nice change from mostly much younger mystery sleuths. Readers should not write him off as too old since he manages to solve the murder before the authorities do, while also enjoying a nice romance with a Larch River widow.

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