Only the Dead by Vidar Sundstøl

only the deadAs always, start at the beginning, particularly in a series.

This book, the second in Sundstøl’s Minnesota Trilogy, recounts two days of a deer hunt that ends in a horrific ice storm.

Whereas the first book (The Land of Dreams) is more of a moody action piece, this one is a moody psychological study.  It’s about a man eaten up by his suspicions, as he plays along during a yearly hunting trip with his brother that he hopes will be the last – ever.  Lance Hansen has thoughts that his brother Andy had something to do with a gruesome murder a few months back.  It’s very hard to keep these thoughts to himself when he’s out hunting with his brother, and Lance wonders if Andy’s gun sights will soon be aimed at him.  Or is he just paranoid?

The main story line alternates with passages about a previous murder a hundred years ago, when an ancestor of Lance’s may or may not have killed an Ojibwe Indian man.  The account is of someone pushed close to death by cold exposure and the delusions that come with it.

In the present day, the weather worsens greatly, and Lance’s mind races to all kinds of hallucinatory fancy, as he tries to keep himself alive amidst freezing rain and rising fear of his brother.

Definitely read The Land of Dreams first.  In my opinion, it’s the better book and moves much faster than this one.  Only the Dead is more of a slog, albeit a short one.  It’s worth reading for the mental suspense and how one’s perceptions change under adverse conditions.  I am hoping that the third book (The Ravens) will tie things together.

(William Hicks, Information Services)

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