Deep House by Thomas King, published by Harper Collins, reunites readers with sometime Sheriff’s deputy and most of the time photographer Thumps Dreadfullwater. In King’s last book featuring Dreadfulwater, Obsidian, the detective had finally put to bed the unsolved mystery of who had been the serial killer the press had nicknamed “Obsidian”, for his habit of leaving a chunk of the stone in his victim’s mouths.
Fifteen years ago he had killed Dreadfulwater’s partner and daughter and then vanished without a trace. With that ghost finally laid to rest his life should have been restored to some semblance of order and tranquility. Unfortunately the universe, and other factors, have different plans in store.
His on again off again relationship seems to be in an off period, he still has to monitor his blood sugar as his adult onset diabetes is still persisting in its refusal to vanish, and his good friend Sheriff “Duke” Hockney seems intent on re-instating him as a local deputy every time something strange happens. This time its the abandoned burnt out hulk of a van that’s been left at paint testing facility.
When Dreadfulwater accidentally discovers the driver of said van’s dead body at the bottom of a canyon (he shows up as a surprising photo bomb in a picture) naturally the Sheriff reinstates his status as Special Deputy. It’s amazing how something as innocent as paint can turn out to be intriguing and deadly.
As with all the books in the Dreadfulwater series the mystery is only part of the focus. King populates the books with a collection of wonderful characters who stroll through their pages delighting and aggravating Dreadfulwater in equal measure.
The scenery surrounding Chinook, the town in the unnamed prairie state the books are set in, is another character. A mixture of rolling plains and mountains, town and Indigenous reservation, high end resorts and greasy spoons, the region is as alive and breathing as any other person we meet.
From the descriptions of the kidney destroying roads on the reserve to the lovingly described details of the Dreadfulwater’s breakfast in Al’s greasy spoon King has created a world most of us would love to inhabit. Well. maybe without the dead bodies and occasional gunfire.
For all the charm of the characters and the scenery there is still a murder needing to be solved (two eventually) and Dreadfulwater and the Sheriff eventually make their way, somewhat aided and abetted by friends, to a satisfying conclusion. In other words this book is a perfect example of how the journey is as much fun as arriving at the destination.
Deep House by Thomas King is another satisfying instalment in the Thumps Dreadfulwater mystery series. Some of the best and most intelligent books in the genre.