Sunday, December 19

Dark Tiger - William G Tapply

Stoney Calhoun has been content to live his life since waking up in a VA hospital seven years earlier. He has amnesia about his life until then, and though occasionally surprised by the appearance of a new skill or flash of knowledge, he's happy with who he is now and not interested in uncovering who he used to be.
The Man in the Suit has been content to visit from time to time and check on the state of Stoney's memory, but things have changed - Stoney is coerced on a number of fronts to accept an offer he really can't refuse, working as a guide at an exclusive fishing lodge in the far corner of Maine. He can't tell anyone why or where he's going, which doesn't help his relationship with Kate, and he can't come home until he discovers who killed a government agent and the sixteen-year-old local girl found with him.
Dark Tiger strikes a beautiful balance between plot and character development - amnesia may mean Stoney's lost a lot, but there's a clear sense of who he is at his core, and we're given the impression that hasn't changed. Clearly highly trained, he discovers
a memory in his body and his brain of how the stick felt vibrating in his hands, and how his feet could feel the air pressuring the fuselage when they worked the rudder pedals, and he knew he'd flown a plane such as this one low and fast over woods and lakes. This memory, like all of his memories from the time before he was zapped by lightening, was imprecise and refused to be pinned down, but Calhoun could feel it in his fingers and toes.
I was less interested in the finer details of who did it and why than in Stoney himself - his character, the way he works and how he processes information is calm, methodical and intelligent. Tapply's writing is seamless and invisible - though occasionally struck by a particular line or thought, I was otherwise unaware of the reading process. I read Dark Tiger with a tinge of sadness - it's clear from the tone of the novel and the loose ends that this was intended to be a longer series but was cut short with Tapply's death. I've enjoyed Stoney so much I'm almost afraid to try any of Tapply's other novels, but perhaps the enforced rest of the 2011 Library Ban will help. - Alex

The Stoney Calhoun trilogy:
Bitch Creek
Grey Ghost
Dark Tiger

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