Booklist Reviews 2014 March #2
*Starred Review* Heller's first novel, The Dog Stars (2012), a muscularly literary postapocalyptic tale, became a blazing best-seller. Here he takes the frenetic energy down a notch without diminishing suspense as he portrays an artist with "the heart of a killer." Though renowned and well off, with a top gallery in Santa Fe, painter Jim Stegner is haunted by grief and guilt. He served time for shooting a dangerous man who made lewd remarks about Jim's blossoming daughter, who later died under circumstances he can't bear to think about. Seeking peace in the glories of land and sky and the Zen of fly-fishing, Jim has just settled into a small house in the Colorado wilderness, where he's painting with great intensity, inspired by the best model he's ever had, smart, tough Sophia. Then he encounters a man brutally beating a horse. Jim ends up murdering this notoriously violent, much-feared hunting outfitter, putting an abrupt end to his quest for serenity. As Jim duels with the police and the dead man's kin, he keeps painting, creating provoking, elegiac, and jubilant works fueled by anguish and love. Heller's writing is sure-footed and rip-roaring, star-bright and laced with "dark yearning," coalescing in an ever-escalating, ravishing, grandly engrossing and satisfying tale of righteousness and revenge, artistic fervor and moral ambiguity. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.
LJ Reviews 2013 December #1
Another from Heller, who sparkled with The Dog Stars, his edge-of-the-earth breakout debut. Having served time for shooting a man, Jim Stegner gets good money for his paintings at a Santa Fe gallery and has sworn off violence. Then he spies a bad-news local named Dell beating a horse and intervenes; a painting he does of a man digging a grave proves prophetic, as Jim again encounters Dell and kills him. With an eight-city tour.[Page 69]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
LJ Reviews 2014 April #2
Right and wrong. Good and evil. Often, these are difficult distinctions to make, as we see in this second novel from the author of the acclaimed The Dog Stars. Expressionist artist Jim Stegner finds sanctuary in fly-fishing, especially after the murder of his teenage daughter. He has been jailed once for almost killing a man, but he isn't what most of us would call a bad person. When Jim sees lowlife Dell Siminoe viciously abusing a small horse, he becomes angry, and they fight. Jim never planned to kill over it, but when he stumbles upon Dell in the dark, by the side of a river, Jim doesn't let him walk away again. For the rest of the novel, Jim battles his demons, producing brilliant paintings even as he dodges the police, and Dell's family, at every turn. The story is at times suspenseful, at times melancholy, at times spiritual, but always engrossing. Jim is no hero, but he is certainly compelling. VERDICT Difficult to define by genre, this novel embraces themes of personal loss and growth, drama and suspense, while also including plenty for those who enjoy art or nature fiction. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 11/3/13.]—Shaunna E. Hunter, Hampden-Sydney Coll. Lib., VA[Page 77]. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
PW Reviews 2014 February #4
Jim Stegner, celebrated painter, ardent fisherman and homespun philosopher, narrates this masterful novel, in which love (parental and romantic), artistic vision, guilt, grief, and spine-chilling danger propel a suspenseful plot. In one aspect of his personality, Jim is a gentle, introspective man who reads and quotes poetry, feels at one with nature, and has full-hearted empathy with animals. But every now and then, if provocation occurs, rage—"a red blindness"—swells up in him and destroys any restraint. When the novel opens, Jim has already served prison time for beating a man who leered at his teenage daughter. Now his daughter is dead, murdered at age 15, and Jim feels bitter guilt and endless remorse for the girl's death. After the tragedy, Jim's wife left him. He has retreated to a little house in a Colorado valley where he is painting with new urgency, beginning an affair with his young model, and conquering his alcohol and gambling addictions. When he comes upon a man brutally beating a horse, however, Jim's rage rises again. The rest of Heller's story includes two murders that Jim is involved with, and also a period of artistic flowering, as paintings that portray his psychological state flow from his palette. Heller (The Dog Stars) is equally skillful at describing the creation of a painting as he is at describing the thrilling details of a gunfight. Here, he explores the mysteries of the human heart and creates an indelible portrait of a man searching for peace, while seeking to maintain his humanity in the face of violence and injustice. (May)[Page ]. Copyright 2014 PWxyz LLC