Celine: A Novel by Peter Heller

I always love an older female crime solver, and Celine is hopefully the first in a series featuring such a heroine, loosely based on the author’s mother, who was also a blue blood debutante turned private investigator, handling primarily cases of family reunion. Hired by a beautiful middle-aged woman to investigate the disappearance of her father twenty years earlier near Yellowstone National Park, Celine and her laconic husband/sidekick borrow her son’s camper and take to the woods on an adventure that’s difficult to describe, but is deeply satisfying to fans of mystery and of nature writing. Throughout, Celine’s own life and motivations are explored in parallel with her client Gabriela’s. It’s a beautiful piece of writing that imagines this complex woman’s interior life with sensitivity and lyricism, without sacrificing the thrills of the genres.

My only criticism is that sometimes the writing is just a bit too precious. The text is overly peppered with the one-word sentence “Well.” Used sparingly, it is a delightful reminder that we are privy to Celine’s thoughts, but it definitely begins to grate with overuse towards the end.

I am hoping that Peter Heller writes more of Celine’s adventures, as this is a heroine too tremendous to be confined to one book. There’s so much more of her past to be explored, and I definitely want to hear of her continuing exploits.

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