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Author Keith McCafferty takes a stand in ‘Buffalo Jump Blues’

Award-winning author Keith McCafferty didn’t set out to write a political book when he started Buffalo Jump Blues, his fifth mystery with Sean Stranahan, an occasional private detective based in Montana.

But, sure enough, as a murder mystery unfolds, the plight of the United States’ first national mammal — thanks to the National Bison Legacy Act, passed by Congress and signed into law in May — lands in the spotlight.

A targeted number of wild buffalo in Yellowstone Park are killed each winter to limit the herd’s size. McCafferty says 600-900 members of the herd are targeted for reduction in 2016 — with thousands eliminated in the past 10 years.

“When I started writing Buffalo Jump Blues, all I wanted to do was tell a good story,” McCafferty says in press materials. “That’s all I ever want to do, move characters around under open skies and let them tell a story with humor and grace, and if in the process, a light is shined on an issue that makes readers think, so much the better.

“But the story of buffalo is a story written in blood. First, we took the buffalo from the land, reducing 34 million head to a few hundred animals. Then, we took the land from the buffalo, fencing it so that they could never return. Ever since, any effort bison have made to reclaim their homeland has been met by bullets, or by capture and slaughter.

Buffalo Jump Blues is a book about people, not politics, but I readily admit my failure as an impassive observer when it comes to bison.”

When a stampeding herd of buffalo plunges to its death from a cliff outside Yellowstone Park, Sheriff Martha Ettinger and Deputy Sheriff Harold Little Feather are on the case. Was it Fourth of July fireworks? Hunters? Adding to the mystery, the body of an Indian man is discovered among the dead buffalo — shot in the leg with an arrow.

Meanwhile, Sean has been hired by Ida Evening Star (a mermaid at the Trout Tails Bar & Grill) to find her old beau, John Running Boy. Guess where the investigation leads Sean?

Celeste Williams

Buffalo Jump Blues

  • By Keith McCafferty
  • Viking, $26
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