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Likely Stories : Celine, by Peter Heller


I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and biographies.

Peter Heller has penned four outstanding suspense novels.  His first was The Dog Stars, followed with The Painter, then The River, and now his latest is Celine, the story of a women who has a hobby of finding lost people.  She carries a Glock 26 and is not afraid to use it.


Peter spends a lot of time describing the landscape.  This prologue sets up the story.  He writes, “It was bright and windy, with poppies flushing orange down the slopes of the bluffs, all mixed with swaths of blue lupine.  The Pacific was almost black and it creamed against the base of the cliffs along the Big Sur.  He loved this.  He hitched the rucksack higher on his shoulder.  Since Jence had died in the war it was the only thing he really loved.  Good hall today, too, a solid handful of jade pebbles from the cove below.  He stopped to catch his breath.  The trail was steep here, the rocks like steps, his pants legs soaked to the thigh and heavy.  Just a second here, he was in no hurry this afternoon” (3). 

Another important element was the wildlife Celine and Pete faced.  Peter wrote, “It has almost never happened that a grizzly bear kills more than one man.  Or woman.  If they do, it’s usually in the same incident, a mama bear’s rampage protecting cubs or, as in the terribly sad incident featured in Herzog’s movie Grizzly Man,  furious attack on a couple in their camp by what was probably a gaunt and desperate boar arriving at the end of the salmon run and wild with hunger.  The history books are not replete with serial grizzly maneaters.  Pete checked it out after listening closely to Celine tell Gabriela’s story” (46).  The story of Gabriela is the main part of the story.  Celine’s profession is hunting down missing persons. 

Heller picks up the story, “On September 19th, Celine called Gabriela in San Francisco and told her that she would try to find her father.  Or confirm that he had died.  Gabriela would have to prepare herself.  The young woman answered as Celine knew she would: with relief.  She had money, she said, and insisted on paying expenses and the going rate of New York PIs.  Celine could tell this was nonnegotiable and she did not object” (49).  Celine called her friend in Denver to borrow a truck and camper for three weeks.

While on the drive, Celine began to realize someone was following them.  They played a game of cat and mouse, until they pulled into a dinner.  A young man got out and entered the dinner.  Pete stepped outside and put two trackers under his car—one obvious tracker and the second one hidden.  This is where the story begins to revup the suspense and excitement.  Peter Heller is a masterful storyteller and Celine is one of his best tales.  Warning!  If you pick up this story, you will soon be looking for the other three novels.  5 Stars!

Likely Stories is a production of KWBU.  I’m Jim McKeown.  Join me again next time for Likely Stories, and happy reading!

Life-long voracious reader, Jim McKeown, is an English Instructor at McLennan Community College. His "Likely Stories" book review can be heard every Thursday on KWBU-FM! Reviews include fiction, biographies, poetry and non-fiction. Join us for Likely Stories every Thursday featured during Morning Edition and All Things Considered with encore airings Saturday and Sunday during Weekend Edition.