With “Strong from the Heart” (Forge), the 11th book in the Caitlin Strong Texas Ranger series, author Jon Land offers readers a satisfying blend of suspense, action, mystery, and heart (as the title suggests).
The plot strikes close to home for Caitlin early in the story when the son of her longtime companion Cort Wesley Masters overdoses on oxycodone. Caitlin herself is struggling with addiction to painkillers, as are millions of real Americans. At the same time, the Ranger is digging into a tragic mass death in a Texas border town, made all the more mysterious because it isn’t the first instance. The same town experienced a similar mass death more than 120 years ago and no one knows why.
Two investigations ensue, one into the mass death and the other into those who provided the drugs that nearly killed Cort Wesley’s son. Soon both paths begin to merge, leading readers toward what they know will be an explosive conclusion. And they won’t be disappointed.
In the story-within-a-story tradition of the series, a historical investigation unfolds with the main plot, interwoven with and complimentary to Caitlin’s chase. This time, Caitlin’s ancestor William Ray Strong must find children kidnapped from the town where the first mass death took place, riding through the pages with Pancho Villa in a miniature western adventure.
What sets this book apart from other thrillers on the shelf and raises the bar for the series itself is a deft combination of two aspects — the stakes and the mystery. Caitlin has faced evil in the past, but this time she must track down and confront a powerful cabal with devastating intentions and influence in the highest reaches of power. These stakes, bolstered by Land’s usual blend of quick dialogue and die-hard action, might be enough to propel the story, but he injects extra fuel with the mystery of the unsolved mass deaths. As the investigation progresses, the puzzle comes together like a Holmesian locked-room murder case with an Old West twist. This alone will keep readers turning the pages, hungry for the next clue.
“Strong from the Heart” takes the gun-slinging action that Caitlin and her outlaw friends are known for and adds in the stakes of a traditional thriller, the mystery of a locked-room murder puzzle, and the heart of a crisis that hits close to home for Caitlin Strong and for millions of Americans. Thriller lovers can’t go wrong placing this book at the top of their late summer reads.
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