Review | Roanoke Ridge: A Creature X Mystery, J.J. Dupuis

36140905Science writer Laura Reagan travels to Roanoke Ridge, Oregon to search for her former teacher and mentor, Professor Berton Sorel. He was supposed to be filming a TV show about Bigfoot in the area, but went missing before filming could start. Laura’s own feelings about Bigfoot are complex — her father had been one of the most preeminent researchers of the subject before he died, and while she had fond memories of accompanying her father on his work, she often found herself having to defend her own work against the shadow of his reputation.

Roanoke Ridge is a quick and entertaining mystery, and I loved the character of Laura and her struggle against living under the long shadows of both her father and her mentor. I also loved Laura’s friendship with Saad, who went with her to Roanoke Ridge. Part of me wishes there was a bit more clarity about who Saad was in general, as I had initially thought he was her assistant, but his haplessness at some of their escapades made me wonder what his role actually was. Regardless, I enjoyed reading about him as a character — I related a lot to his reactions during their hike around Oregon to find Professor Sorel.

The mystery may have begun as being about one person’s disappearance, but as reports of Bigfoot sightings start coming in, and people are starting to get hurt, Laura realizes that Sorel’s disappearance is part of a larger mystery. Roanoke Ridge hides a secret that goes back years, and there are people who would go very far to make sure it stays hidden. The Bigfoot sightings themselves aren’t as thrilling as I’d hoped, though that may just be because of my own skepticism.

Mostly, I think I watched too many Scooby Doo cartoons, so every time someone mentioned Bigfoot, I kept imagining the big reveal of the Scooby gang lifting off a rubber head and the bad guy calling them ‘pesky kids.’ Unfortunately, with such an association, it takes quite a bit more atmosphere for me to actually suspend disbelief and feel the fear the characters must have been undergoing, or alternatively, quite a lot more camp for me to go full-on Scooby Doo hilarity, and Roanoke Ridge didn’t quite get to either.

Still, I like how that subplot turned out, and particularly how it challenged Laura to question the people she thought she knew and events she thought remembered. It kept the story personal, such that it was easy to understand why Laura cared so much about uncovering the truth.

Roanoke Ridge is the first in a series, and it’ll be interesting to see where Dupuis takes Laura’s story from here.

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