The Clinch Knot - book cover

The Clinch Knot

by John Galligan

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Publishers Weekly (starred review)


The Dog is in Livingston, Montana, daydreaming about fishing the ‘Stone and, as usual, subsisting on Swisher Sweets, vodka-Tang, and the hope that pretending to forget will be enough.

He’s forged a few tenuous friendships, and now finds himself watching from the bank as troubled local girl Jesse Ringer leads D’Ontario Sneed into the swift current of young love. It’s sweet, really … but some of the locals object to the relationship on the basis of Sneed’s skin color.

Then the unthinkable: vibrant, wild Jesse is found shot in the head, and Sneed is passed out in her car, gun beside him, window seams taped, and engine running. Sneed is hospitalized for severe carbon monoxide poisoning and can’t string together a sentence to defend himself, so it falls to the Dog.

If only the Dog could run from his life without ending up in the tangle and snarl of the lives of others. A man who wants to lose himself in the current must be careful of his backcast; it’ll always keep him tethered to a life he’s trying to forget.


At the outset of Galligan’s stunning third Montana-set fly-fishing mystery*(after 2005’s The Blood Knot), Ned “Dog” Oglivie, a self-described “traveling drunk” and “trout hound” who lives out of his asthmatic 1984 Cruise Master RV, has befriended a jailed bull rider’s daughter, Jesse Ringer, and her black boyfriend, D’Ontario Sneed. Then, off a mountain road outside Livingston, soon after an ugly encounter with skinheads, Dog finds Jesse shot to death on the ground and Sneed unconscious in Jesse’s sealed car, nearly dead of carbon monoxide poisoning. Sneed’s earthy mother, Aretha, supplies Dog with comfort and common sense as he seeks to prove Sneed didn’t murder Jesse. With a plot as entangled as a drunkard’s fishing line, this Big Sky excursion into the wilds of human frailty deftly and surely snags the imagination. The ending offers just a hint, elusive as that legendary brown trout of fishermen’s dreams, of redemption for Galligan’s beguiling antihero.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Working in troubled waters, a peripatetic fly fisherman catches murder, romance and the occasional trout.It’s been four years since Ned Ogilvie could think of himself as the husband, father and businessman he once was. A devastating family tragedy has propelled him into what he regards as an irrevocably altered state: “I am the Dog now. I am a trout hound. I fish, I drive, I fish, I drive, I fish.” Finding himself in picturesque Livingston, Mont., the Dog plans to plant his waders in the nearby Roam River, a fly-fishing Mecca. He’s temporarily sidetracked when Sneed and Jesse, a pair of engaging young lovers, attach themselves to him, making the Dog feel pleasantly avuncular and content just to hang out for a while. But Sneed is black, Jesse is white, and soon Livingston’s hate community takes notice. Jesse is murdered; Sneed is arrested; and the Dog knows the mighty Roam will have to wait longer. His task—to keep Sneed from being railroaded by reeling in the killer—is certainly challenging. But it turns out that the self-proclaimed trout hound has enough bloodhound in him to sniff out the dark stuff homicides are made of. It’s not the fly fishing, but the cast: good guys to root for, villains to hiss. Galligan (The Blood Knot, 2005, etc.) has the knack.


In Galligan’s third fly-fishing mystery, a subgenre he has made his own, Ned Oglivie, better known as Dog, is four years into a fishing-and-alcohol (vodka and Tang is the preferred beverage) binge that has brought him to the Yellowstone River in Livingston, Montana. He has befriended a young black man named D’Ontario Sneed and his new love, a local white girl named Jesse Ringer, and it seems that the deep hurt in Dog’s past may finally begin to heal. The idyllic interlude ends catastrophically when Jesse is found dead and D’Ontario is charged with murder and attempts suicide by carbon-monoxide poisoning. D’Ontario is left brain damaged, so it falls to Dog to prove his friend’s innocence and find the murderer. There is no shortage of suspects, each sinisterly eccentric and sharply drawn, and Dog’s quest takes more turns than a meandering trout stream. It’s just the thing for a blustery day when the rivers are blown out and the fish are off the bite.


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John Galligan – “The Clinch Knot”, by Mark Stevens on Don’t Need a Diagram  – February 2012

Author has another mystery on the line,  by Doug Moe on – September 2008

Publisher’s weekly The Clinch Knot: A Fly Fishing Mystery – September 2008

Kirkus Reviews The Clinch Knot – July 2008