Peter Fontaine, intrepid reporter for The Bellinghamster, and his long suffering artist partner Nick Olson are back again in another mystery set in the City of Subdued Excitement, Bellingham, Washington. Along for the ride are their many quixotic friends and outlandish acquaintances we have gotten to know over the last three mysteries . This time around, Peter and partner nee boyfriend Nick have been strongarmed by Peter’s BFF Evangeline Conklin, sometime found object artist, into helping out at her Go Go Gyoza stall at The Farmers Market on Earth Day. Normally her stoner boyfriend, Tommy, would be helping out but the Farmers Market Association talked Tommy into wearing the Spunky the Squirrel costume and participating in the ecoterrorist play put on to benefit the Whatcom Emergency Farm Fund, Ergo, Nick and Peter’s assistance is required.
As Peter manages the front of the booth, Nick and Evangeline are busy producing her gourmet gyozas (with fillings both traditional and experimental) to the rain soaked and quickly dwindling crowd. Roger Hager, famous ceramics artist and old friend of Nick’s, had ambled over from his stall across from theirs earlier in the morning to sample the gyozas and pass the time with Nick. In fact he had pretty much abandoned his booth and taken up permanent residence next to Nick as they chatted the morning away. But then Roger starts coughing and doubles over in pain. Peter calls for an EMT and ambulance who whisk Roger away to the hospital too late to save him.
A casual inquiry by Peter as to the cause of death boosts his always present curiosity into the determined stage of inquisitiveness that Nick has come to know and dread. Roger has been poisoned and all roads lead to the Green Goddess farms. Peter’s previous investigations have always put him and others into life-threatening situations and Nick expects it to happen again. They really need to have a little talk about Peter and his impulses, that is if the murderer doesn’t get them first.
With One Man’s Treasure, Nicole Kimberling once again embroils us into that damp, politically correct world of Peter and Nick in Whatcom County, Washington. With Peter as her snarky Diogenes, Nicole Kimberling gently pokes fun at the new age/old hippie/green lifestyle that taken root in Washington state and the northwest coast. Whether it is the Spinnin Wimmen comprised of women named Luna and Cinderella, to Roger’s wake where pottery students and mourners are asked to turn Roger’s ashes into ceramic pots, Nicole Kimberling gets the flavor of the town and its citizens just right. Her descriptions and characterizations are perfectly spot on, delighting us with new fully realized characters and tidbits of esoteric information about ceramic glazes to toxins derived from the Zigadenus species known as death camus. The author’s fondness for the area and its inhabitants never interferes with the clarity with which she sees them all.
I have followed Peter and Nick’s relationship from the very beginning. They met during a murder mystery in Primal Red, our first introduction to Bellingham, Washington, and its quirky denizens. It was a rough start for both of them, but still they had managed a date and more by the end. Baby, It’s Cold Outside finds Peter and Nick involved in a monogamous relationship and we start learning more about Peter, his family, and Kjell,the plein air artist that is Nick’s cousin. Both men are dealing with their emotions, Peter is turning 30 amidst a midlife crisis, and decisions need to be made about their deepening relationship. By the time we get to Black Cat Ink, Bellingham Mysteries #3, Peter and Nick are living together in The Castle and still working on their relationship issues and Peter’s impulses while tracking down a stolen statue in time for Halloween.
In each book, Peter and Nick’s relationship progresses realistically, with its hitches and misfires. Nick Olson’s nordic stoicism contrasts beautifully with Peter’s emotionally inquisitive outlook but not always in a manner conducive to maintaining the relationship. At the end of Black Cat Ink, the Fontaine/Olson household had acquired a black kitten, and Peter some maturity in acknowledging that his methods often harmed more than helped his relationship with Nick. And Nick had obtained a promise of sorts that Peter would think before he rushed into action because they both wanted a long future together.
And here we come to my one and only quibble with this installment in the Bellingham Mysteries and partnership of Fontaine/Olson. Yes, yes, I know some will say the murderer was easy to spot. While that may be true, it is always the how and the why and not the who that I enjoy about the Bellingham Mysteries. But let’s get back to the relationship at hand. The two have been making strides in settling down, Peter’s over his insecurity at remaining at The Hamster as his local newspaper is fondly called, and Nick becoming more comfortable at pdas. When a murder happens (my expectations always run high at methods the murderer will use), Peter’s inherent nosiness is on alert. No one, including Nick and this reader, expects that to ever change. As Peter snoops around their community, with Nick’s assistance in this case, I start thinking “aha, Peter is not going this alone as promised. Good one.” But alas, that is not to be. Even as Nick proposes and they enter into a “kinda married domestic partnership”, Peter’s old habits rise up at the end, his promise to Nick forgotten as he confronts the murderer in a spectacularly stupid fashion. I was so amazed at both his stupidity and the fact that he put someone close to him in harms way. I was still irritated at the character hours later. Oh yes, I know Nick’s resigned to Peter’s methods, Peter knows he’s screwed up again(but doesn’t really apologize) and I just wanted to throttle him. Not the way I wanted to end this book. Or my relationship with Peter, Nick, and the Bellingham tatterdemalions.
So I am hoping for a 5th book in this series and for Peter to gain some long overdue maturity. Nick deserves better. As does their readers. This reader continues to be very fond of the both of them.
Here are the books in order:
All available at Loose – id, Amazon, and ARe.