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‘Clinch Knot’ aims to reel in mystery fans

The Bookworm

“The Clinch Knot” by John Galligan, c.2008, Bleak House Books, $14.95 paperback, $24.95 hardcover, 328 pages.

One hundred and 20 hours.

That’s what you get in your one-week paid vacation. Seventy-two hundred minutes, or 432,000 seconds.

Your goal is to savor them all.

Imagining all the fun you’ll have, the souvenirs you’ll bring back, the puddle of relaxation you’ll become, you make plans. And all it takes is one small event – like, say, a simple murder – to ruin everything.

Ned “Dog” Oglivie has been on vacation for years, living out of his decrepit Cruise Master, casting flies as an escape from his past. Fishing is a great way to forget, but in the new book “The Clinch Knot” by John Galligan, Dog’s caught himself nothing but trouble again.

No doubt about it, Jesse was a wild girl and everybody in Livingston, Mont., knew it. It wasn’t because drugs and booze were her main sources of nutrition and it wasn’t because her daddy was in prison, although either of those personality quirks could’ve contributed to her reputation.

No, everybody knew Jesse was wild because she’d been with nearly every man in Livingston, including a few married ones. It was no surprise, then, that she draped herself over Sneed, the young man Dog had befriended on his latest fishing trip. Everybody was scandalized, though, not because of Jesse’s actions but because Sneed was black and Jesse was not.

That, of course, didn’t mean she had to die.

It was Dog who found them on a cliff overlooking a heartbreaking river: Jesse, dead with a bottle next to her head; Sneed in the sealed car with a smoldering grill near his ankles, only half alive. Dog pulled him out, not knowing if the carbon monoxide would finish his friend off before local skinheads could do it first.

It looked like a murder-attempted-suicide, but Dog knew Sneed didn’t – couldn’t – kill Jesse. So who did? The list of possibilities was huge: the town sheriff; his square-jawed deputy; Hollywood star and skinhead boss Dane Taylor; the owner of the local fishing guide service; the occupants of two mysterious black SUVs; even the town’s eccentric lawyer. Any one of them could have been a killer.

As Dog tries to untangle the knot his friend is in, he also must deal with demons that surface in his memory. Can he snag the truth?

Could he fall in love again?

Reading “The Clinch Knot” will remind you of a river: relaxing, easy to enjoy at the end of the day but occasionally, frustratingly meandering; deep in some places and shallow in others, smooth here and roiling there. It’s rocky sometimes, too, but you really shouldn’t miss jumping in.

I love the way author John Galligan uses his words, making Dog a philosopher at times and a common drunk two paragraphs later. You’ll enjoy this character a lot because, it seems, we all know somebody like him in real life.

If you’re casting about for a good mystery that will reel you in quick, get hooked on this one. For vacation or any time, “The Clinch Knot” is a book to catch.

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. She lives in West Salem, Wis., with her two dogs and 9,500 books.

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