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All Around Me Peaceful
by Kent Nelson

Category: Fiction / Mystery
397 pages; ISBN: 0-385-29715-7

Rating: 9/10  (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Coletta Ollerer


Neil Shanks is a young man who hails from Michigan where his family has a prosperous lumber business which was financed by his great grandfather’s Colorado mining efforts. Neil has always been interested in his forebear and determines to go west to discover how he made his money. It had never been fully explained to anyone.

Neil starts working for a newspaper in the town of Gold Hill, Colorado, then opens a sandwich shop, then a souvenier shop, all to keep himself sheltered and fed while he searches archives to find out about his great grandfather, Thomas Shanks.

He strikes up a friendship with Becky Carlsson, who finds him interesting because he is so different from other men she knows. He enjoys reading and lends her some books. She is entranced by the new things she learns from this platonic relationship. She does not tell her husband, Finn, because he would not understand the friendship.

Hunting season starts in this mountainous area and nearly everyone in town sets out for their hunting camps including Finn and Becky. Snow begins to fall heavily and a few days later an exhausted Finn comes back into town, having arrived there by hanging onto the tail of his horse and walking down the mountain. He reports that Becky had been lost while they were hunting and he doesn’t know where she is. “`Becky,’ Finn said. He opened his eyes again, but stared blankly, as if he couldn’t remember where he was or what he’d said. The usual tightness of his mouth was gone, and his lips were slack.” (p80)

Sheriff Ed Wainright sends Aurey Vallejos, a local experienced climber, to find her. Later groups of townspeople and volumteers go out in waves to search for the missing girl.

Neil gets a clue about his great grandfather from the Indian Museum and finally comes to discovery. “To whom could he explain what he knew? Who would listen? None of his family would want to hear such a story. Thomas was a man of their own blood, a hero.” (p361) He decides to return to Michigan but stays to help search for Becky.

The Colorado Search and Rescue team spots something from the helicopter. Something red in the snow seen at a distant and secluded part of the mountain. Ed sends Aurey to investigate.
Aurey reports back that it was a bloody ptarmigan apparently killed by a coyote.

The search continues but on more than one level. People find themselves looking inside while searching outside. Some recognize the need for change and go forward, others are locked in neutral. Some see no need for change, and there are those who find reform forced upon them.


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