The Highwayman: A Longmire Story
Highway Patrolman Bobby Womack has been dead thirty years, but it appears his ghost has returned to Wind River Canyon, Wyoming. Highway Patrolman Rosey Wayman has been hearing his voice over the radio while out on patrol. But she is the only one who hears it and that’s a problem. Walt Longmire and his friend, Henry Standing Bea, have come to the canyon to see for themselves whether there really is a ghost. Perhaps its Rosey who is in need of help, after all, the life of a Highway Patrolman is bound to be a stressful one.
I have been a fan of the Longmire television series for a while but this is the first time I’ve read Craig Johnson’s fiction. I have to say that I was hooked from the first page. It has everything one could want from a good book: great atmosphere, memorable characters, and an intriguing story line. I can’t think of another writer who brings to life the expansive landscapes of the American West along with the mysteries of the people who inhabit the area in such a magical way. This is clearly American storytelling at it’s best.
On vacation in Germany, a middle-aged husband and wife hike to a medieval tower. Knowing the tower makes the husband uncomfortable, the wife sends him down the trail and enters the tower alone, waving to him from an upstairs wooden landing. Later, the husband returns, but cannot find his wife. Entering the dark tower, he becomes ill, blacks out, and awakens outside. Still unclear what has happened to his wife, the man returns to his hotel, cleans up a few details without speaking to the authorities, and begins his return trip home to the States as if nothing has happened. Some time later, the womans body is discovered in the tower without identification, and a local, small-town detectives caseload becomes a good deal more complex.
Did the husband kill his wife? Was she killed by an old boyfriend? Did she commit suicide, or did she simply have the bad luck of falling?
Clearly, Katya is a labor of love for husband-and-wife writing team Jon Martell and Jamie McCormick, and the result is a pleasure for those who love a good mystery. The strength of this novel, which spans two continents and several decades, is the depth of thought given to each main characters possible, but no way predictable, back story and the care taken in revealing those stories in the plot. Intrigued from the first few pages, the reader feels the delicious compulsion to keep reading to finally discover how all of these lives interweave to create this unique novel. In the end, the authors tantalize the reader further. Rather than providing clear answers, they leave the reader puzzling. A tribute to their skill, this lack of complete clarity proves a completely refreshing and satisfying result. Katya was four years in the making, and those were four years well spent.
A Patchwork of Old Spies
A drug trade operation appears to go awry and two undercover agents, Gunther and Heidi, head to Chipley Island. Zach and Jodie Warren, two of the fourteen retired espionage experts who call the island their home, are not too thrilled that the agents have chosen their haven for protection. Yet they, along with the remaining retired spies, get involved to piece together the truth behind Operation Seagull. There are way too many unrelated clues and a slew of red herrings, however, which call for intense problem solvinga time for Jodie to resurrect the program from her old Patches mission. But trying to figure out “how a South American drug business, a Far Eastern gang, and…a Russian op named Polaris,” fit together, for example, is far more complicated and extremely riskier than the retirees thinkespecially when they’re invaded.
With a slew of published works under her belt, Gini Andings latest espionage novel takes readers into the strange and mysterious world of retired spiesat least the ones on Chipley Island. Once again featuring husband and wife agents, Zach and Jodie, as principal characters (from A Case for Old Spies), Anding includes a large, but intricately designed, cast of retired spies and other colorful protagonists and antagonists set within the confines of a tight community. Of particular interest is the way Anding punctuates each character (spy or otherwise) with his/her detailed credentials in bold lettering throughout her third-person narrative. That writing style not only helps readers wrap their heads around Anding’s hefty cast, but also identifies how each character is related to the other in some fashion.
As Anding continues to introduce each cast member, she slowly, but deftly, unfolds her storyline. Key to plot building, Anding creates the most interesting character conversations. Intertwined with geopolitics and its behind-the-scene connections with intelligent activity, dialogues are filled with a combination of reality, bumbling lame comments, and ad nauseam yet hilarious statementsall compactly laced within black comedy and action-packed who’s-done-it, game-of-Clue-like adventure. In addition, Anding also keeps her narrative flowing by including cliffhangers at the close of chapters and a whole stream of unexpected scene changes.
There is no doubt in this reviewer’s mind that A Patchwork of Old Spies is one read that is truly an unforgettable one of its kind.
Strong Light of Day (Caitlin Strong Novels)
Fifth-generation Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong is back in her seventh novel to face a Cold War era problem first faced by her father while he served as a Ranger himself. One of the few female leads in the thriller category, Caitlin has boots that few others can fill.
In Strong Light of Day, Caitlin finds herself investigating thirty missing high-school kids on a field trip, including the son of her romantic partner. Caitlin and Cort Masters have developed a good relationship, even though their fathers were on opposite sides of the law, and she sees herself as a mother to his two boys. Additionally, she’s managing a case of dead cattle that were cleaned to the bone by whatever killed them. As the story progresses both Caitlin and reader learn more about her father, and a previous case involving Russians during the Cold War that’s coming back as a renewed attempt by particular segments of the current Russian government to devastate the US in a terrorist attack.
Caitlin’s personal connection to her current cases add to the pressure she faces in trying to juggle apparently competing issues, and today’s current issues with Russia make this a timely story. As the ongoing back story of her father, Jim Strong, and Boone Masters, Cort’s father, is teased out, the reader gets a deeper appreciation for just what made Caitlin the Ranger she is today.
Land is an experienced and skilled author who keeps finding new highs to reach, and Caitlin Strong is at her best in Strong Light of Day. The previous books are not required to enjoy Strong Light of Day, but any new reader does themselves a disservice if they don’t add them to their to-be-read pile.
Three different Amazon boxes — each containing a Ziploc bag with a “Don’t Steal Music” sticker slapped on it and filled with bodily pieces-parts. That is all the evidence SFPD Detectives Qigiq (pronounced “ki-jeek”) and Kandy Dreeson, his partner, have on a missing college student named Sally Bellowi. Their biggest clue comes in when a demented YouTube video goes viral. While further research connects the hideous recording with the “Don’t Steal Music” sticker and peer-to-peer music files, the leads eventually zero in on a psychopathic culprit. But more technological sleuthing reveals viruses, one more deadly than the other, which makes cornering the perpetrator more difficult than expected. Klingler’s new thriller is a ride into the dark side of computers and comedy.
In his second novel, rising author Joe Klingler features Qigiq, who purposefully relocates to California from Alaska in the hope of becoming acquainted with computer crime. A quasi-gumshoe Clouseau, Qigiq is not only technologically behind the times, but also technologically challenged — to the max. Coupled with Kandy, his quick-witted, brawny-ish sidekick, Qigiq’s awkwardness only stands out more. In addition to his clueless main character, Klingler includes a handful of other quirky characters in the mix. Aside of a few scatterbrains, Klingler throws in enough red herrings to leave readers also clueless when it comes to pinpointing the real offender.
Klingler’s plot definitely has a Quentin Tarantino-feel to it. Opening with a graphic crime scene, Klingler quickly shifts scenes by introducing the daring duo with morbidly hilarious misdirected dialogue. But that is only the beginning of the black comedy that he deftly interweaves throughout his somewhat substantial story. Penned in third person, Klingler’s constantly moving narrative principally but not exclusively alternates between the crime investigation, the inner workings of the music media company, Silver Platter (headed by the suave and narcissistic Eddy Blake), and computer programmer and guru Harry Zeto. All periodically laced with snippets of romance, Klingler’s plot slowly builds up to a ticking clock scenario that leads to an ambiguous ending.
Cleverly designed, Mash Up is the perfect detective read, as well as a classic addition to the noir genre.
The Odd Fellows Society
The Odd Fellows Society is one book not to be missed. When left an urgent message by his friend and colleague, Jasper, Father Santiago Torres agrees to meet him, but is left stood up by his friend and the new owner of a chicken bestowed upon him by an insistent Chinese woman. It is only later that Santiago learns that his friend did not stand him up, but that Jasper has died of an apparent suicide. Grief-stricken by the death of his friend, Santiago feels that it was not a suicide that killed Jasper and that there is more to his death than meets the eye. When he begins receiving cryptic messages from The Odd Fellows Society, he is led on a scavenger hunt that takes him through the monuments and mysteries of Washington, DC. Santiago believes these clues are being sent to him so that he can find the final copy of Jaspers thesis that apparently holds valuable information. With the help of his friend Abigail, Santiago follows the clues given to him by The Odd Fellows Society and uncovers information that goes back centuries. He also uncovers another secret society, called the Stewards, that may or may not still exist. The more he learns on his hunt helps him on his quest, but also begins to put himself and those closest to him in danger. Reluctant to accept help or heed the warnings of many, including his brother Nico, who is in the FBI, Santiago continues to follow the messages from The Odd Fellows Society. Relentless in his search, even as his job and life are on the line, Santiago knows that he must solve the clues for his friend and the greater good. Whether he will be able to do this and end up alive is uncertain at every turn.
C.G. Barrett has created an amazing book that combines so many genres it should have one of its own. The Odd Fellows Society is a mystery, a thriller, a romance, a treasure hunt, an adventure, historical fiction, and full of suspense at every turn. Barretts ability to combine all of these genres creates a book that truly keeps you guessing until the very end. There are times that you think you have it figured out and then he throws a curve ball, leaving readers reeling as to what just happened. Not only is the storyline strong and consistent throughout the book, the characters are all very well thought-out and written. You can tell that each character has a purpose and, while you may not know what it is right away, you know you need to remember them.
This book was exciting and thoroughly enjoyable to read, and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes a book that keeps you engaged.