It's almost too much -- Land's canvas for this thriller ranges from 1820 in a Texas bayou, to today's school-linked gun violence, and from Caitlin Strong's father and grandfather as Rangers themselves, to Strong's significant other, Cort Wesley Masters, fighting (literally) for his life in a Mexican prison. Oh yes, and there's a CIA strand in here, too.
But let's start at the center: Caitlin Strong, gun maven par excellence and experienced conflict negotiator and resolver, might as well have one arm strapped to her side or one eye blindfolded. Why? Well, Cort Wesley's ridiculously long incarceration has Caitlin being the de facto parent to the two Masters boys, Dylan and Luke. Something about that situation keeps changing the way Strong makes her decisions and which actions she chooses. And her boss, D. W. Tepper, sees it, knows it, and handles a messed-up intervention by slinging her onto desk duty -- about as poor a match as there could be for Strong. Fortunately, events intervene and Tepper drags Strong along to an oil rig where mass murder has taken place -- revealing, en route, an unsolved problem from Strong's family's past.
"But you, Earl, and Jim never did solve it," Caitlin said to D. W. Tepper after he stopped.Strong and Cort Wesley Masters soon find their situations overlapping, as modern-day terrorism with long roots in the nation's past drives the threat level sky high.
"I'm starting to feel sick," Tepper said, instead of responding.
"How about the rest of the story? What else happened that day on Galveston Island?"
"Don't make me regret loosening that chain hitching youto a desk, Ranger."
"Not ready to cut it yet?" ...
A Coast Guard captain named Lauderdale approached looking dour and unsettled.
"We'd like permission to start of-loading the bodies, Captain," he said to Tepper.
Who'll survive to parent those kids -- and why Caitlin is taking one of them to the shooting range -- turn out to matter just as much, as the team races to sort out the players and the next moves.
This is a classic Land thriller, filled with fast-paced high adventure, skilled interventions, and a modern-day Ranger whose ability to solve a case has nothing to do with being a woman. But everything to do with being Strong.
Extra goodies: Here's the start of the book, thanks to Land. And here's a great interview with Land, hosted by Deborah Crombie Hank Phillipi Ryan on the Jungle Red Writers' blog.