Thursday, December 28, 2017

Backstory #1: How Caitlin Strong Grew Into Texas Ranger Overkill, in STRONG TO THE BONE, Jon Land

It's not a spoiler to look at the Author's Note in the back of the newest Caitlin Strong Texas Ranger thriller from Jon Land. Setting STRONG TO THE BONE into context, Land wrote, "Strong to the Bone started with me wanting to challenge Caitlin as I'd never challenged her before. Provide a deep look into a part of her psyche I'd never previously explored."

With that decision, Land provided fresh depth to his series character, a Texas Ranger who's a lone female in her field much of the time in modern-day Texas -- and whose "nature and nurture" both come from her father, grandfather, and more, riding for justice and crime control in the Lone Star state.

Land's unusual format for his Caitlin Strong books involves flashing alternate glances into the past stories of the other Texas Rangers in the family. This time it's Earl Strong, who missed out on the armed forces in World War II only to find himself confronting the very dangerous J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI, over a murder case at a prisoner-of-war camp ... a murder involving Germans who have complex backgrounds and motives.
Darkness fell without any of the first responders emerging from the complex.

"What did the Rangers do for excitement back in the day before we had terrorists?" Caitlin asked D. W. Tepper.

"You mean besides hunting dinosaurs? Well, we did have the likes of Bonnie and Clyde and John Wesley Hardin to deal with. And your grandpa, he even went up against the Nazis."

"Earl Strong spent time in Europe?" Caitlin asked, trying to reconcoile the apparent discrepancy with what she know of her grandfather's history.

"Nope, he went up against them right here in Texas ..."
At the same time, Caitlin's life partner Cort Wesley Masters is tangling with a case that looks independent of Caitlin's -- one that jeopardizes the safety of his risk-taking younger son. The couple's powerful and spirit-swept ally Guillermo Paz sweeps into action to protect both generations. And suddenly bullets are flying (no surprise to series readers!).

What makes STRONG TO THE BONE different from earlier titles in this series is that Caitlin's past, as probed here, is more personal than the preceding backstories of her Texas Ranger forebears have revealed: She's been overly violent for a long time, causing her superior officer, D. W. Tepper, to tear out his hair repeatedly, as Caitlin spirals from one round of violence into another. What's her trigger? Land must have written the book long before the hashtag #MeToo took over American news -- but it could have been Caitlin Strong's own battle cry.

STRONG TO THE BONE is a lively page-turner, crammed with action, suspense, and interlocked tales of courage and skilled investigation. Take the associated paranormal strands with some humor and enjoy the way they give bite to the conflict. I'm a fan of Guillermo Paz and his crazed spirit journeys here -- but every Caitlin Strong book also lures the reader to make a declaration on behalf of the historic and modern Texas Rangers, even to say (in another recent meme): I'm with Her.

[NB: Land's author website is usually out of date, but still fun to explore:]

PS:  Looking for more mystery reviews, from cozy to very dark? Browse the Kingdom Books mysteries review blog here.

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