This is the third book in the Sean Stranahan series, and my introduction to this author’s writing. The protagonist is a former private detective who considers himself a Renaissance man: He guides during the trout season, writes for fishing magazines, and paints in the winter (or when he gets a commission); a man who had never owned a gun, his weapon of choice being a can of pepper spray, and whose impatience with modern technology prompts him to throw his flip phone in a lake. The author writes “Never meeting a stranger was a Western trait, and Stranahan had grown up in the East where people conducted business with skins of reserve so thick that you had to peel them like an orange. In that regard, moving to the Rockies had been like coming home.” In this appearance, his assistance is sought by Martha Ettinger, Sheriff of Hyalite County, Montana in two cases she is working on: A wrangler at an area dude ranch is found dead in the backcountry, impaled on an elk antler, and foul play is suspected, and, that same night, a 25-year-old woman on a trail ride from the same ranch has disappeared. It is unknown if the two things are related.
The characters are all very well-drawn and interesting. Primary among these, besides Sean, is Martha, married and divorced twice, whose history includes having shot a U.S. congressman a year ago, he a murderer and she cleared by a coroner’s inquest, but her memory of the incident is still very sharp. Even lesser players are unique: One of the area residents is Pablo Mendoza, a baritone for the NY Metropolitan Opera.
A major theme is the antagonism between the environmentalists who want to “bring to light the atrocities man committed against wildlife,” when e.g. wolves had been eradicated early in the 20th century by gun and cyanide stick, after the US Congress passed a bill allowing the reintroduction of the wolf population, a program that started in Yellowstone National Park in 1995, and groups such as Ranchers and Hunters for Taking the Wolf Out of Montana and, generally, ranchers who “hate wolves as much as they hate Democrats.”
At least initially, I found the book replete with complex CSI calculations, and esoteric fishing and hunting descriptions and terminology, somewhat (well, completely) outside of my usual sphere of knowledge There are many references to fishing lures and ties, e.g., the title of the book is a name given to a fishing tie. I am certain that many readers, with perhaps more familiarity with such things, would not have a problem, but for this reader, it often took me out of the book. But ultimately, I discovered that the novel was filled as well with poetic prose, a good mystery, and a totally unexpected twist, and I closed the book, which was overall very satisfying, with a smile on my face....Continua