"Strong Cold Dead" (Forge), by Jon Land
Caitlin Strong, a trigger-happy, often insubordinate, fifth-generation Texas Ranger, is back in another rollicking Jon Land adventure that reads like a cross between a Randolph Scott Western, a Steven King horror story and a Jason Bourne movie script.
As always in this action series, the modern-day plot has a direct link to a case investigated by one of Caitlin's ancestors. This time, it flashes back to 1874, when "Steeldust" Jack, the first Strong to wear the Rangers' distinctive five-point star, faced down John D. Rockefeller as he tried to strong-arm his way onto oil-rich Comanche tribal land.
Now, a new generation of oilmen has arrived in Texas, lusting to seize the oil — or perhaps something else — hidden beneath the dust of the same Indian reservation.
Returning from the first four novels in the series are Cort Wesley Masters, Caitlin's menacing ex-felon boyfriend; his two young sons, Luke and Dylan; Gillermo Paz, a former South American death squad commander who has become Caitlin's guardian angel; and her often exasperated commander, D.W. Tepper.
"Strong Cold Dead" ranges from Houston to the frozen reaches of Canada and involves peyote, ancient Indian legends, a new way of committing mass murder, a Canadian Mountie, ISIS, a shoot-out at a carnival and an apocalyptic conspiracy to kill everyone in Texas.
Caitlin and her friends foil the bad guys at the last minute, this time with help from young Dylan, who is finally living up to his family name.
The plot of any Jon Land novel can seem far-fetched at first, but as always, he pulls the disparate strings of the fast-moving, action-packed yarn together in a way that is both surprising and entertaining. In the end, Caitlin offers a warning for our perilous times: "Evil is at its best when it's hiding among us, in places we least expect, in the hearts of people we expect better from."
Bruce DeSilva, winner of the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Award, is the author of the Mulligan crime novels including "The Dread Line."