Sunday, October 12, 2014

Caitlin Strong Rides Tough in STRONG DARKNESS (Jon Land)

The sixth in the Caitlin Strong thriller series from Jon Land came out two weeks ago, and it's a fast ride through both the Texas Rangers in action in 1883, and today's tech-centered espionage and infiltration in American communication. STRONG DARKNESS pits Caitlin in the present against a Chinese businessman with a major chip on his shoulder, and her team -- her beloved Cort Wesley Masters, her massive and forceful protector Guillermo Paz, and her boss, D.W. Tepper -- has so much to handle in this one that the final assault on crime has to come from Caitlin herself. Good!

If you're new to the Strong series, here's some quick background: Jon Land writes these as combinations of 19th-century real Texas Rangers history, and a narrative "now" in which Strong, carrying on her family's Ranger tradition, wrestles for full participation in a policing group that's enduringly skeptical of whether women can meet the demands of the job. Caitlin's boss, D.W. Tepper, know she can press through dangers that beset any Texas Ranger; he even knows a lot of her family's escapades and successes, and from time to time he allows her more of the information that she craves.

But Caitlin's created some powerful messes, even across state lines, as she's rarely tactful and always willing to shoot when necessary. Most recently (see Strong Rain Falling), she killed a team of murderers in Providence, Rhode Island, where Cort Wesley's son Dylan is currently in the hospital in a medically induced coma, following a massive concussion. Somehow her behavior in the recent past has the Providence investigators skeptical about allowing her back into the state, for Dylan's sake.

Quickly, Land unfolds double trouble among Chinese nationals in the United States -- those who were kidnapped and forced into slavery on the transcontinental railroads in the 1800s, and those today using high-tech espionage and invention-related piracy. While the tale of Texas Ranger William Ray Strong makes up an alternating narrative thread, young Dylan appears captivated by a high-end Chinese sex-film star who needs his help, Caitlin's trying to counter threats in both Texas and New England, and her boss might as well resign himself to more political spill-back from Caitlin's brash approach to seeking justice:
Tepper dropped the recorder into the drawer and leaned back in his chair, the springs creaking as it tilted toward the open office window. "You know how many times your daddy and granddaddy got their names in the paper?"

"No, I don't."

"Neither do I, Ranger, because it wasn't often enough for anybody to pay attention. If it's their tradition you're trying to love up to, you've got an awful peculiar way of doing it."

"Old Earl rode with you back when dinosaurs roamed the prairie, and I don't believe Jim ever owned a cell phone. It's the age that's different, D.W., not me."

"No, Caitlin," Tepper corrected, "it's both."
This one's especially of interest for me because I'm passionate about the shameful episode of U.S. history that resulted in the 1882 passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act (see my website and related Pinterest board). But it's also a must because it's a classic Caitlin Strong thriller, half Western, half current crises, and all action with a hefty dash of friendship and loyalty. This Jon Land series stays on my list of "must read the newest book, and let's go back and re-read the others." And don't mess with Texas, right?

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