Blown by the Same Wind (A Cold Storage Novel)

Image of Blown by the Same Wind (A Cold Storage Novel)
Release Date: 
November 14, 2023
Soho Crime
Reviewed by: 

“An engaging, if quirky, read.”

One of the pivotal characters in this novel is a man called the Old General, long dead and mummified, formerly displayed as a curiosity, and now retired and residing in the root cellar of a bar in an Alaska fishing village called Cold Storage. 

That should tell you something about this book. It is set in 1968, and the social and political upheaval of the times has largely missed, yet has influenced, the isolated community and its people.

Other characters include Brother Louis, a Trappist Monk on a pilgrimage, seeking “An opportunity to be in a remote location where he would be left alone to meditate and write.” But his quest is somewhat more complicated, as he has planned audiences with the Dalai Lama and other spiritual leaders to discuss peace and love. He is a writer of some note, widely recognized by another name, and is of interest to the FBI for his views, which are too close to communism for the comfort of the government.

There’s a remarkably beautiful 16-year-old girl—seemingly childlike—named Venus who inspires shameful lust in the male characters. She is a walking exclamation point, who says things like this, when she learned the Brother’s father had been a painter in France: “Really . . . that is so cool! Wow! A painter in France. Did he paint naked ladies and stuff?” Brother Louis, intrigued with the girl and embarrassed by the fact, believes there is more to Venus than meets the eye.

Venus’s parents, Bobby and Esther Myrtle, are pot-smoking hippies. Ellie and Slippery own the local bar. Her daughter, Annabelle, flies a commercial float plane. George owns a fishing boat and, as Slippery describes him, “used to be in law enforcement and still serves as a kind of unofficial cop around here. At least he has a lot of friends among the cops . . . and if the cops need anything out here, he is the first person they call to help them out.” Glen, a Vietnam veteran, is haunted by his witnessing of the My Lai massacre and troubled with guilt, believing he could have done more to stop it. And there’s Dot, George’s 100-pound dog, and any number of Alaskan brown bears feeding on salmon.

Life in the town is set askew when two self-proclaimed Southern gentlemen show up. The names they use—unrecognized by townfolk until the Brother informs them—are historical, borrowed from members of the conspiracy to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. They drink a lot and spout racism and hatred, claiming they are in the vanguard of a movement to take over America and turn control over to people and values inspired by the late Confederacy. Following a trail of conspiracy theories and bizarre history, they believe the mummified Old General is actually the body of John Wilkes Booth, and offer Ellie bags of cash for it.

Her refusal to sell, and the arrival of a so-called FBI agent (also using a moniker related to the Lincoln assassination), trigger a spree of hostage-taking, torture, murder, grand theft, and kidnapping that touches most everyone in town one way or another. The FBI man claims to be investigating the Brother, but is more interested in the Southerners and their machinations. “Oh, honey, we are raising an army,” one of the Southerners tells Venus. “This is a recruiting trip for us. Of course we heard about the body of the great hero of the South that Ellie has down in her root cellar.”

The action unfolds amid deep discussions among the characters of religion, philosophy, war and peace, the law, and politics—all leading to a surprising climax and unexpected conclusion. An engaging, if quirky, read.