Book Review: The Prisoner of Orchard Bend
The Prisoner of Orchard Bend
By Patrick Lemieux
248 pages • ISBN 978-1926462059
Fans of Stephen King’s popular Dark Tower series know all too well that there are “other worlds than these.” Toronto writer Patrick Lemieux fashions together but one of those possible existences in The Prisoner of Orchard Bend, an intricate tale that could very well exist somewhere south of King’s Gilead where gunslingers may be lurking in every shadow.
One such slinger of steel (in more ways than one) rests at the heart of the story’s plot. The mysterious Emery Dale has come to Orchard Bend and death has ridden in with her. The year is 1879, a time of simpler but certainly no less brutal means. A storm rests over the horizon line and like the thunder to come shots ring out and men fall dead in the dust. The first pieces of a mystery are in play.
We move forward nearly 75 years where a gruesome discovery is unearthed and in the bones is a secret that threatens to reveal much more than what was found in a lonesome wood structure half buried in the ground. Even with one missing a head, those bodies have a lot to say.
Though his past books have been non-fiction chronologies of bands like Rush and Queen, first time novelist Lemieux pens his tale as though he’s told it hundreds of times before and he probably has to have constructed such a complex plot. This does not seem like somebody’s first twrill around the novelist's dance floor as the author vividly crafts a text that spans over various timelines giving you just enough bait to keep walking deeper into the woods.
The story’s imagery unfolds like brushstrokes, not surprising considering Lemieux is also an artist. Part Western, part mystery, the slow unraveling actually makes for a quick read and, like the heroine of the tale, thigns aren't what they appear to be on the surface.
Who am I? Emery Dale asks herself early on, a question we’ve already been wondering about since the opening chapter. Is this Purgatory? Is the afterlife just a one-horse town in the middle of nowhere, with no memory of your life before?
While there is one person who would much prefer such questions remain unanswered, the reader will find themselves quickly turning pages to acquire the next piece of the puzzle. Those in Orchard Bend will soon discover that you can’t always bury the past but, in turn, you may not want to go digging it up either.
Though many secrets are revealed by the final page, Lemieux is at work on a sequel that may reveal even more ghosts in the back pages of one town’s strange history. I for one am welcoming a return to Orchard Bend.