Weird Conspiracy on the Range: Peacemaker by Marianne de Pierres

Virgin Jackson is a park ranger, but not just for any park. She is responsible for making sure Birrimun Park in Australia remains a crime-free zone. It is, after all, the largest natural landscape in the world of this near future world, so her job is no small thing. When Virgin notices a couple of unsavory individuals in the park—unsavory individuals with guns who have entered the park by no means she can immediately determine—Marianne de Pierres’s Peacemaker kicks into full gear.

Told from Virgin’s point of view, de Pierres’s narrative is very intimate. We see everything through her eyes, including the United States Marshall assigned to shadow her on the strange goings-on at the park, Nate Sixkiller. (Yeah, just go with the name). He comes across as polite and mannered in a classic cowboy sort of fashion, yet quite stoic and unbending.

Virgin begins seeing her imaginary friend/pet, an eagle named Aquila, which she hasn’t seen since she was a kid. More peculiar than Aquilla’s sudden reappearance is the fact that Sixkiller can see the supposedly imaginary beast. So what begins as a crime novel set in a western landscape gains additional layers with spirit animals coming to life, which may or may not be part of conspiracy group attempting to spread influence not just in Australia, but globally.

The frenetic pacing of the novel very much aligned with the mashed-up genre elements. Although it is chaotic, and Virgin is barely able to keep up with everything thrown at her, all the story’s ingredients works well together. On the surface, throwing all these themes and elements together would seem a risky venture on de Pierrres’ part. As the novel progressed; however, everything fit together in such a way that Peacemaker would have been a lesser novel without each of these seemingly disparate elements.

Virgin Jackson is a very well-rounded character: she’s successful in her chosen vocation, she’s got a romantic life and friends, etc. In some ways she reminds me a bit of the character Kate Beckett from Castle, as both are fierce, strong women who followed in their father’s footsteps. Because we are literally in Virgin’s head, we get a better sense of her relationship to her father. He died under mysterious circumstances, and she has carried on in his place, seeing the park preserved and safe. Virgin is much more than a simple “action girl,” however. Virgin isn’t perfect or invincible—while she does take part in her fair share of daring moments, she is also rescued from danger equally. Much to her consternation, Sixkiller happens to be the one saving her at times.

Sixkiller and Virgin come together under forced circumstances, not unlike the characters in buddy cop movies such as Lethal Weapon. While the pair in Peacemaker isn’t quite Riggs and Murtaugh, their sensibilities do come into conflict enough during the narrative to build an ample amount of tension. Their growing respect for each other, which might fall just short of admiration for one of these two, felt true and earned over the course of the novel.

As the novel draws to a close and the mystery is nearly solved, de Pierres throws a curve-ball that opens the door for what could potentially be many more stories about Virgin Jackson. It doesn’t quite change what came before in the novel as much as it sets the table for what could potential come ahead. This is the first novel by Marianne de Pierres I’ve read, and I hope to read more about Virgin Jackson and (perhaps) Nate Sixkiller. A fun romp that is much more than the parts which comprise it.

 

Peacemaker is available April 29th from Angry Robot.


Rob Bedford lives in NJ with his wife and dog. Some have called him a trickster of a character. He reviews books and moderates forums at SFFWorld, has a blog about stuff and writes “The Completist” column for SF Signal. You can follow him on Twitter: @RobHBedford if you want to read random thoughts about books, TV, his dog, beer, and whatever else catches his fancy.

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