Strong from the Heart
A Caitlin Strong Mystery #11
By Jon Land
Author’s Website: jonlandbooks.com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
In what Brad Meltzer calls a “savory Tex-Mex tale, seasoned with all the ingredients of a great thriller,” Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong digs for the truth behind the Opioid Crisis in the next installment of Jon Land’s critically acclaimed series
Mexico, 1898: Texas Ranger William Ray Strong arrives in the border town of Camino Pass to transport a young Pancho Villa to stand trial, but his plans are waylaid when he learns all of the town’s children have been kidnapped.
The Present: The drug crisis hits home for fifth generation Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong when the son of her outlaw lover, Cort Wesley Masters, nearly dies from an opioid overdose.
Determined to make those responsible pay, Caitlin sets out to track down the dealer and pusher, while trying to solve the inexplicable tragedy of a small Texas town where all the residents died in a single night. When she realizes these two pursuits are connected, she finds herself following a trail to the truth of the crisis nestled hard in the center of America’s power base.
That power base, comprised of politicians, Big Pharma, along with corrupt doctors and drug distributors, has successfully beaten back all threats in the past. But they have no idea what’s in store when the guns of Texas come calling.
This is my first visit with Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong, and it won’t be my last! It is a fast-paced thrill ride, from a tiny Texas town to a long-term US government official with many cities of illegal opiate deaths exploding in between. The stakes have never been higher for Caitlin when the life of a loved one is on the line and a killer who has never been bested is after her. The mysteries are challenging, as even when the culprits are identified, proof must be found to take them down. Great-grandfather Texas Ranger William Ray Strong and Caitlin have many parallels in their professional lives, showing that history often repeats itself.
There is a rich legacy of Texas Rangers in Caitlin’s family, starting with her great-great grandfather. We get to see great-grandfather William Ray this time. It is 1898, and children in the border town of Camino Pass were kidnapped. A posse that included their fathers left days earlier and no word was heard from them. William Ray was there to pick up a prisoner to take to trial and imminent death for his crime of murder. William Ray and Pancho Villa rode off to look for the missing children before taking Villa to court. What they found was astounding, beyond what he could have ever anticipated.
In the present, Luke Torres is the son of former outlaw Cort Wesley Masters, a close friend of Caitlin’s. She had been a surrogate mother to him and his brother since their mother was murdered. Luke was in the hospital from an opiate overdose. Had his boarding school roommate not found him when he did, they would be planning a funeral.
Caitlin was in Camino Pass as part of the Surge Capacity Force team that responds to certain emergencies with Homeland Security. All the not quite 300 residents of the town were found dead of unknown causes. While searching the town, they discovered one survivor who had been in the back room of the clinic, sleeping off a drunk. They are to find what killed the residents, and whether it was an accident or a bioweapon attack. They also had to keep it out of the news to avoid an influx of lookie-loos and press before they learn the source.
Caitlin is torn, wanting to join forces with Cort Wesley to find who gave Luke the drugs and where they came from. She also has work to do with the team at Camino Pass where national security may be at risk. She is at the hospital where the survivor is being tested when the National Guard members standing guard are killed, along with the medical team in the isolation unit, and the survivor. Caitlin tracked the killer to the sub-basement, where she tried to bring down a huge man and injured him seriously before he got away. She is now in the crosshairs of a killer who fights to the death, has never lost, and has the indirect backing of a high-ranking government official.
The characters are very well defined; the protagonist and her friends and associates are very likable. Caitlin’s half-sister Nola is a wildcard, however. They have only known of each other’s existence a short time. Nola is a killer, a psychopath – or sociopath – who seems to enjoy killing those she executes. She has Caitlin’s back, however, and will go the distance to save her sister’s life. Watching the interplay between them is worth seeing. I like Caitlin and appreciate her standards and pride in being a Ranger. What I did learn about Cort Wesley and Colonel Paz is just enough to whet my curiosity for next time.
This is an intense, riveting masterpiece that traces some of the history of the Texas Rangers through real and legendary Rangers. It is also a tightly plotted novel of seemingly unrelated situations and challenging crimes for which only Caitlin and her colleagues could find solutions. The incredibly volatile, unpredictable ending is very satisfying, with all loose ends tied up; I highly recommend this, particularly to those who appreciate the history of the Texas-Mexico border and seeing the Texas Rangers in action.
*OBS would like to thank the publisher for supplying a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review*