Book Review: The Peacekeeper by B.L. Blanchard
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 3.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Mystery, Alternate History
Series: Book 1 of The Good Lands
Publisher: 47North | Brilliance Audio (June 1, 2022)
Length: 318 pages | 9 hrs and 39 mins
For fans of slowburn mysteries with a unique alternate history backdrop, The Peacekeeper is sure to keep you riveted. The story follows Chibenashi, whose titular role makes him a police detective of sorts for his small town of Baawitigong in a North America that was never colonized. His life hasn’t been easy, with a childhood filled with loss and a younger sister to care for, but Chibenashi manages to get by, until the Manoomin harvest, when the murder of a woman turns the close-knit community on its head.
The circumstances around the killing dredges up unpleasant memories for our protagonist. Two decades ago, his mother was murdered too, and his father confessed to the crime. Now it turns out that the slain woman was his mother’s best friend, leading to an investigation which takes Chibenashi down some dark paths he never thought to revisit again. But if there is a connection between the two murders, he must find out—for his traumatized sister and for himself.
I confess, the plot itself is a rather standard murder mystery, but it was the description of the novel’s alternate history setting and its intriguing approach which made me curious and led me to read book. And overall, it certainly did not disappoint in that respect. The alternate history angle was indeed the most fascinating element of the novel, because not only is the entire geography of the continent different, but the author also challenges you reflect upon about how the entire structure of government or society might be changed. Pretty much everything is different.
Are there questions that don’t get answered or holes that don’t get filled in regarding the world-building? Sure, but I don’t think it affected the experience too much. In that sense, the story worked effectively as a thought experiment, putting the main character’s personal demons and emotional turmoil into a fresh new context.
The plot itself was slowburn, as I said, unraveling at a measured pace as Chibenashi goes through the motions of chasing down clues and interrogating leads. The trajectory of the story itself is pretty standard and won’t be breaking any new ground for seasoned readers of police procedurals or mysteries, but the highlight for me was definitely the moral and psychological aspects and questions it presents. After all, I was able to predict the big reveal rather easily, but it was the repercussions and the aftermath of those revelations that truly stuck with me.
And honestly, it probably wouldn’t have made such an impact had Chibenashi hadn’t been written so well. Our protagonist is a flawed man, with a troubled past that has left him burdened with plenty of guilt, sadness, and general sense of being beaten down. He hasn’t always made the right decisions, but his backstory also gives the reader a reason to sympathize with him and see the situation from his perspective. Deep down though, he is also a champion for the truth and won’t stop pursuing it even knowing he might not like the answers he finds at the end.
Bottom line, I enjoyed The Peacekeeper, and though the world-building is arguably the novel’s strongest point, I feel there is also a good story here led by a powerful, memorable protagonist. As luck would have it, I also had the audio edition of the book to review and had the pleasure of listening to the performance of narrator Darrell Dennis, who did a great job delivering a full emotional range for a character like Chibenashi. I would definitely recommend this book if you’re looking for an interesting alternate history novel or a unique mystery.