“Strong from the Heart,” by Jon Land (Forge)
Fans of Jon Land’s thrillers featuring fifth-generation Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong will be pleased to hear that the new book in the series is a lot like the first 10 as the hero, a cross between Wild Bill Hickok and Wonder Woman, dispatches a series of Bond-villain wannabees with extravagant use of gun play and explosives.
“Strong of Heart” does differ from its predecessors in one respect, however: It is better written. Clumsy sentences that cropped up in the earlier works are not much in evidence this time.
The action begins when Caitlin is dispatched to the little Texas desert town of Camino Pass, where all but one of its 288 residents have perished from unknown causes. Meanwhile, her lover — former bad guy Cort Wesley Masters — is on a rampage against illegal pill mills responsible for his youngest son’s near-fatal drug overdose.
From the get-go, fans of this formulaic, action-packed series will suspect that the mysterious deaths and the pill mills are somehow related — and they’ll be right.
Also, as always, Caitlin’s investigation has a hidden connection to a case handled by one of her Ranger ancestors. This time, it’s her great grandfather William Ray Strong, who once joined forces with Mexican bandit Pancho Villa at Camino Pass to battle a Chinese cross-border drug gang.
Land’s crew of colorful characters from previous books are in evidence, including Caitlin’s often exasperated commander D.W. Tepper, a mysterious Homeland Security agent whose real name is unknown, and a former South American death squad commander who has become Caitlin’s guardian angel.
This time around, the bad guys are part of a Specter-like conspiracy with powerful Washington, D.C., connections, but nothing can save them from the righteous wrath of Caitlin and Masters in a conclusion as violent and destructive as the climax of any James Bond movie.
Bruce DeSilva, winner of the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award, is the author of the Mulligan crime novels including “The Dread Line.”
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