Stuart is one of the best writers around. Period. She creates such vividly complex characters. They are not perfect examples of what we would like to be - some shimmering chimera that does not exist. She picks out characters that are deeply wounded, often scarred, often they are content to turn a blind eye to the world around them just because it's easy than fighting. Sometimes people don't really get Stuart because she is not drawing pictures of pretty characters, she's studying people in all their aspects, good and bad. And she fascinates me like no other writer because of this willingness to dance on the knife's edge rather than play politically correct.
Tanner and Ellie are two more of Stuart's intense dramas. Stuart loved the whole of a person - all aspects, even the ugly, and loves to toy with those, intense emotions when a man and woman are put into a situation that is explosive - between them, around them. Fifteen years ago, Tanners father took a rifle and killed over a dozen people. No one saw it coming; there was no major warning signs before it happened. Tanner and his mother were gone before it happened, though the horrifying act has followed him ever since. He has come back to the scene of the crime, the small Montana town where people died because of his
father with the driving need to understand why.
The first person he meets is Ellie Lundquist, the only survivor of his father's massacre. She was wounded in the knee, limps today because of it. After her first shock at who Tanner is, she befriends the troubled man. Ellie is a good person but for too long she was much more than a victim of his father's crime. She was only sixteen when it happened, and as the survivor, the town wrapped her in cotton and protected her like the town princess. Ellie has allowed this to happen because she cares about the people, but she knows this has gone on too long and she must leave the town or die inside.
Tanner is determined to find out why his father suddenly cracked and killed people. His arrival has upset some, since nearly every family in town lost a member in the killing spree. It's a quiet, sleepy small town slowly dying, but beneath the surface is a troubling ripple. Suddenly, animals and pets are being shot in the head; people are reporting someone peeking in their windows.
Ellie knows it's not Tanner, but these are the people she has lover her whole life; she cannot see who would be doing this. Worse, if someone is killing animals now hinting Tanner is behind it, could it be maybe Tanner's father was not the real killer? Or was he the killer and somehow escaped by faking his death?
Tanner and Ellie are wonderfully drawn. They are so human, so mesmerizing. This is just another in the long line of Stuart masterpieces, where she unflinchingly holds up the mirror and forces us to look at emotions that are powerful, that are often disturbing.
Sheer bloody brilliance!