I wouldn’t be surprised if J.J. Dupuis grew up on a steady diet of Mystery Inc. investigations.
Whether it was the hijinks of Hanna-Barbera past or Matthew Lillard past, the Toronto-based author definitely watched Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!
It may appear I’m throwing a non sequitur out into the aether of book reviews, but his first book from the Creature X Mystery series, Roanoke Ridge, pits a smart Velma Dinkley-type science blogger against a crowd of rabid Sasquatch fans (squatchers) in Oregon.
There’s even a nod to famous cryptozoologist, Loren Coleman, with an aptly named pseudonym, Lon Conley.
Laura Reagan’s in the fictional region of Roanoke Ridge, digging up old skeletons from her own closeted past, all while trying to hunt down a family friend, Professor Berton Sorel.
He’s an academic who has gone missing while searching for that proof. You know, Bigfoot. With her is her colleague, Saad Javed, who seems to be the Scooby-Doo in this instance. He’s smart, but quiet, and has a familial sense of duty to keep in touch with loved ones while traipsing around the Oregon wilderness.
With Scooby in mind, yes, there are plenty of scenes involving food, of which Saad is imbibing.
Roanoke Ridge is a short read, bordering on a novella in volume, but it drops little nuggets here and there, either in a laudatory fashion for Bigfoot culture or as a way to embed local facts into the plot to either make it legit or illustrate a walk in the woods with Marlin Perkins.
On top of referencing obscure arachnids — trogloraptor — and indigenous avian species like the nuthatch, there is a cryptozoology reference at the beginning of each chapter. It’s a subtle tip of the hat to the media, academics and cryptozoologists, revealing that Dupuis went that extra mile in his research of the sqautching community.
The narrative is very as the crow flies and it reads more like an Ellery Queen whodunit rather than an overwrought horror tale involving nubile flesh fresh for rending.
Much like the science-based protagonist, this can lead the reader into Lake Tedious waters. But it’s a quick read, so the dull moments fade away into the midnight darkness.
The denouement is most certainly an unveiling of the masked man in front of the local police department. Both akin to the old Jim Hutton detective series, and the “snooping kids”.
Laura Reagan risks her own credibility as she uncovers those aforementioned skeletons, but in the age of digital media, even referenced in the epilogue, people forget about the physical, and Reagan has some further soul searching as she takes on a new deal.
Thus, the series machine gets its wheels to travel into Book 2.