Once I navigated a number of seemingly random scenarios and one-dimensional characters, this novel actually began to take shape. But the authorís scattershot method of introducing both people and direction nearly derailed me. That said, almost halfway through, a number of incidents--all featuring ex-lawyer/current fishing guide in a small Wyoming
bed-and-breakfast, Jake Trent--the real story began to emerge. Since this is my first Bertsch novel, I donít know if River of No Return is this writerís normal style, but the one-dimensional personalities--from luscious if brainy former Washington, D.C. colleague Divya Navaysam to Jakeís pal, D.J., an impulsive if loyal friend--create an image that is hard to readjust when Trent gets serious about dealing with the issues confronting him as the plot evolves.
From the start, with a character introduced in China, it is clear that what happens in Wyoming will have international implications.
As the plot segues from Wyoming to Washington, D.C., Idaho and China, Trent is tangentially connected to each new incident. The action seems most relevant in the Wyoming wilderness, where Trent has fled from the machinations of Washington agency work in an attempt to cleanse his emotional palate after an exceptionally difficult assignment. Unwilling to return to the nationís political hub, Jake nevertheless allows himself to be seduced into supporting a cause by Divya Navaysam, only to leave abruptly a couple of days later with a sense of betrayal by a former lover who seems unwilling to relinquish their sexual peccadilloes to the past.
Jake is on more familiar ground back in Wyoming, involved in helping D.J. locate his girlfriend, Esma, who has apparently vanished on her return from a visit to her family in Mexico, unaware that concurrent events are conspiring to return the reluctant Jake into Divyaís orbit. Meanwhile, the suspicious death of a wolf more native to Alaska and a visit by the local sheriff and his wife to China suggest more complications before Jakeís commitments are concluded. Once Trent is in the heart of the mystery, which involves a search for a dangerous woman with international implications, everything falls into place, a precarious assemblage of dominoes ready to crash at any moment with deadly results. As expected, nothing is really what it seems, especially when Washington is involved. Jake Trent works against time, never sure who is really on his side.
The author is somewhat graceless in balancing the diverse facets of the novel, eventually connecting all the relevant characters and actions. The wilderness scenes are the most believable in a tale that is somewhat far-fetched but saved by the momentum of the plot once all the pieces are in place. Unfortunately, while Trent is still being established as a credible protagonist, his character is undermined by a puerile fixation on womenís physical attributes that is woefully stereotypical.
The dialog, especially between Jake and D.J., is also often too simplistic. Perhaps if the author matched more fully-fleshed characters with his plot, River of No Return would be a memorable read.