Miles McEwan lives alone in the town of Ross River at the end of the road in the Yukon. As bush fire chief, he has a crew of five, including his best friend, Mungo, and several other local characters. Miles's past is written on his face in the form of a serious scar he acquired in a wildfire a few years earlier, during which he was unable to save a young firefighter whose presence he sometimes now hallucinates. His bitter past also includes his girlfriend, Alex, who he was about to marry and then abandoned, and his unknown child, Rachel, now five. Alex has spent the past five summers looking for Miles across the Canadian West. One day she and Rachel walk into the local hotel bar and there he is. Miles, tough and angry, isn't sure he wants to start up again, while Alex longs to make him suffer by letting him fall in love with Rachel and then taking her away. Because he has slept with the Métis tracker, Margot, Miles has acquired a local enemy in her nasty boyfriend Wade. Everything comes to a head when a minor fire quickly goes out of control.
At times, The Wildfire Season is a white-hot read, although the drawn-out climax brings together too many variables, as the long-suffering Miles is hunted by the fire, Wade, and a grizzly all at the same time. Pyper writes well ("in the salt and pepper haze that counts for dawn on a fire site") but sections that give the grizzly's view prove absurdly anthropomorphic. However, the characters are fully, tragically human, and the fire lore is magnificent. --Mark Frutkin
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From Publishers Weekly
Set in Ross River, a tiny Canadian Yukon settlement, Pyper's subtle thriller develops a sense of dread more from the menace of uncontrollable forest fires and lurking grizzlies than the human predator who remains anonymous until the end. The local fire chief, Miles McEwan, is a loner whose hidden past is revealed when Alex, his vengeful former lover, arrives in Ross River with their five-year-old daughter, Rachel. Meanwhile, a retired executive and his wife come to town for a grizzly hunt, and it's wildfire season. As several fires combine to threaten Ross River's stubbornly independent inhabitants, the firefighters, the hunting party and the bears, an individual is plotting murder. Pyper (Lost Girls
) writes beautifully about the splendor and dangers of the wilderness. He doesn't anthropomorphize, but his understanding of bears and fire imbues both with a life force. A bestseller in Canada, this novel offers excellent pacing and credible characters, though readers should be prepared for some horrific violence. (Dec.)
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