Caitlin Strong is a fifth generation Texas Ranger as quick with her wits as her gun. Over the years she’s taken on all manner of criminals and miscreants, thwarting the plans of villains to do vast damage to the country and state she loves. But none of that has prepared Caitlin for an investigation that pits her against ruthless billionaire oilman Calum Dane whose genetically engineered pesticide may have poisoned a large swath of the state.
How that poisoning is connected to the disappearance of thirty high school students from a Houston prep school, including the son of her outlaw lover Cort Wesley Masters, presents Caitlin with the greatest and most desperate challenge of her career. And, as if that wasn’t enough, she also has to deal with a crazed rancher whose entire herd of cattle has been picked clean to the bone by something science can’t explain.
The common denominator between these apparently disparate events is a new and deadly enemy capable of destroying the US economy and killing millions in the process. An enemy different than any Caitlin has faced before, and a foe it will take far more than bullets to bring down. But there’s another player in the deadly game Caitlin finds herself playing in the form of Russian extremists prepared to seize upon an opportunity to win a war they never stopped fighting.
Caitlin’s race to save the country weaves through the present and the past, confronting her and Cort Wesley with the most powerful and dangerous foes they’ve ever faced, both human and otherwise. The Cold War hasn’t just heated up; it’s boiling over under the spill of a strong light only Caitlin can extinguish before it’s too late.
Land’s exciting seventh Caitlin Strong novel (after 2014’s Strong Darkness) finds the fifth-generation Texas Ranger pursuing two cases: one involving a herd of cattle that has been picked clean to the bone and another revolving around the disappearance of a busload of students from a Houston prep school spending the night at a nature center. Caitlin realizes that the key to solving both may be found in an ingenious Cold War conspiracy involving “agroterrorism” that her own father investigated decades earlier, along with outlaw Boone Masters, the father of her boyfriend, Cort Wesley Masters. A convoluted narrative — with Russian mobsters, rate Texas militiamen, alien invasion theories, cattle rustling, and a corrupt oil baron — slows the momentum early on, but Land pulls out all the stops in the latter chapters. More than a few bombshell revelations and jaw-dropping plot twists will satisfy longtime series fans.
Caitlin Strong is a kick-ass Texas Ranger and one of the toughest female protagonists in crime fiction. In her seventh outing, she’s called to investigate the disappearance of 30 children, who all seem to have vanished while on a camping trip. One of the missing children is the son of her boyfriend, Cort Wesley Masters. On top of all that, she’s asked to negotiate with a crazed rancher who is holding his family hostage, claiming that aliens have taken his cattle and that he will kill his family before he lets the aliens take them. Other subplots include a billionaire businessman who has created a genetically engineered pesticide that is causing cancer, Navy SEALS in Afghanistan back in 2003, and some really Russians. This is a complex, multifaceted take, but it moves at lightening speed, even allowing time to provide some background on Strong’s family – she is a fifth-generation Texas Ranger. Fans of the series and readers who like their women fearless and smart will love this story.
Zavala County, Texas
Caitlin Strong stopped her SUV at the checkpoint on Route 83 heading toward Crystal City. The sheriff’s deputy approaching her vehicle seemed to recognize her as soon as she slid down her window, well before he could see her Texas Ranger badge. He was an older man, long and lean with legs crimped inward from too much side-to-side stress on his knees riding horses.
“You got no call to be here, Ranger,” the deputy said, having clearly been warned to expect her, his light complexion turned a rosy pink shade by the sun and heat.
“You mean driving on a public highway, Deputy?”
“I mean heading into the shit storm that’s unfolding a few miles down it.” He had brownish-purplish blotches on the exposed flesh of his right forearm, the kind of marks that cry out for a dermatologist’s attention. Then she noticed the bandages swathed in patches on his other arm and realized they were probably already getting it. “We got enough problems without you sticking your nose in,” the deputy continued. “Wherever you go, bullets seem to follow and the last thing we need is a shooting war.”
“You think that’s what I came here for?”
The deputy folded his arms in front of his chest so the untreated one stuck out, the dark blotches seeming to widen as his forearm muscles tightened. “I think you’ve got no idea how Christoph Russell Ilg will react when a Texas Ranger shows up. You don’t know these parts, Caitlin Strong, and no stranger known for her gun is gonna solve this problem the sheriff’s department has already got under control.”
“Under control,” Caitlin repeated. “Is that what you call an armed standoff between sheriff’s deputies, the highway patrol and that militia backing Ilg? I heard they’ve been pouring in from as far away as Idaho. Might as well post a sign off the highway that reads, ‘Whack jobs, next exit.’”
“If the highway patrol had just left this to the sheriff’s department,” the deputy groused, face wrinkling as if he’d swallowed something sour, “those militia men never would’ve had call to show up. We had the situation contained.”
“Was that before or after a rancher started defying the entire federal government?” Caitlin asked him, unable to help herself. “The goddamn federal government can kiss my ass. This here’s Texas and this here’s a local problem. A Zavala County problem that’s got no need for the Texas Rangers.”
The deputy tilted his stare toward the ground, as if ready to spit some tobacco he wasn’t currently chewing. Then he hitched up his gaze along with his shoulders and planted his hands on his hips, just standing there as if this was an extension of the standoff down the road.
“You should wear long sleeves,” Caitlin told him.
“Not in this heat.”
She let him see her focus trained on the dark blotches dotting his arm. The breeze picked up and blew her wavy black hair over her face. Caitlin brushed it aside, feeling the light sheen of the sunscreen she’d slathered on before setting out from San Antonio. She’d taken to using more of it lately, even though the dark tones that came courtesy of a Mexican grandmother she’d never met made her tan instead of burn.
“Better hot than dead, Deputy,” she told the man at her window. “You need me to tell you the rate of skin cancer in these parts?” He let his arms dangle stiff by his sides. “You really do have a nasty habit of messing in other’s people business.”
“You mean, trying to keep them alive, sometimes from falling victim to their own stubbornness.”
“Who we talking about here, Ranger?”
“Christoph Russell Ilg. Who else would we be talking about?”
Zavala County, Texas
Caitlin reflected on what she’d learned about Christoph Russell Ilg for the next two miles down the road. His second wife had just given him his ninth child, and sixth son, even though he was somewhere close to either side of seventy. His parents were German immigrants who came to Texas as migrant farm workers. He’d been born on one of numerous farms they worked in the immediate years after World War II when birth certificates were optional. Ilg himself swore he didn’t even know his own birthday and, as a result, celebrated his and all his children’s on the same day in June exactly six months after Christmas.
For more than a century, ranchers and feedlot operators had been grazing their cattle on South Texas grasslands. Then the Environmental Protection Agency, working in concert with the Army Corps of Engineers, interpreted the Clean Water Act as giving them the right to redefine cattle ponds and even ponds formed over flooded land into what they called “waterways of the United States.” The Bureau of Land Management then crafted a law requiring ranchers to get permits for land on which they once free grazed. Short of that they could be fined for polluting or contaminating those newly proclaimed federal properties.
The fact that EPA’s efforts were as well intentioned as the ranchers’ protests were strident probably hadn’t registered with Ilg, who’d paid none of the two dozen citations he’d been issued amounting to nearly fifty thousand dollars in fines. In fact, he’d been purposely setting his cattle to graze near those waterways on a regular basis, including the day the sheriff’s department came to serve him with an arrest warrant for the unpaid levies. The first of the militiamen who’d come in expectation of exactly that moment sprang from positions of cover, training their guns on the four deputies who had the sense not to draw theirs in response.
By the time those the reinforcements they summoned arrived, more militiamen had spilled in and more continued to show up seemingly by the hour. They formed a perimeter around the area Ilg had staked out and returned with his cattle every day to graze, further inciting the potential of violence the militiamen seemed to thirst for while pawing the triggers of their AR-15s and hunting rifles. One had been arrested during a routine traffic stop after a highway patrolman had spotted a Gatling gun in the back of his pick-up.
The standoff had been going on for three days now with neither side showing any signs of giving in or up. For his part, Ilg had no reason to acquiesce either to the demands of the EPA to stop grazing his cattle amid federally protected waters or to the attempts of the Bureau of Land Management rangers to collect the bulk of the fines levied against him. For their part, the militiamen who’d gathered at Ilg’s ranch not far from Uvalde likely saw his faux crusade as another last stand to preserve the so-called real and free America. They wore the fatigues and gear of real soldiers, imagining themselves to be as brave and skilled as true servicemen fighting real wars instead of imaginary ones. Annointing themselves as the only just moral arbiters, when all they really wanted was an opportunity to parade around with their weapons in the hope of someday getting an actual chance to use them.
Caitlin saw the second roadblock at the head of a side road off the highway leading straight to Christoph Russell Ilg’s ranch. From this distance the scene had the look of a child’s play scene with toy soldiers staged to confront each other on a paper maché battlefield. Drawing closer, Caitlin was able to see the true scope of the danger with heavily armed highway patrolmen poised in flak jackets behind their vehicles while even more heavily armed militiamen peeked out from behind various boulders, trees and thick fence posts. A television truck bearing the markings of a national cable news channel, meanwhile, was parked between the rival fronts, a technician unloading equipment while a reporter Caitlin thought she recognized looked on casually.
She pulled her SUV over and was met by a highway patrol captain she’d worked with before as soon as she climbed out.
“Morning, Frank,” she said to Captain Francis Denbow.
“You got no call to be here, Caitlin,” he said, mopping the sweat from his brow with a sleeve.
“That’s what they told me at the checkpoint back up eighty-three.”
“Well, you should have listened to them.”
“Not telling me you have the situation under control.”
“Because we damn well don’t. A car backfiring could set off a whole shooting war here over waters not fit to drink. Last thing we need is you stirring the pot. Hope you don’t mind I called Austin to get them to call you off.”
“Too bad my cell phone’s not working,” Caitlin told him, reaching back inside the SUV to grab a set of tri-folded pages from the visor.
Zavala County, Texas
Caitlin continued into the open space of road and land between the two armed camps, ignoring the threats shouted her way by the militiamen. She walked on without slowing, heading straight into more guns than she could count while making sure her SIG-Sauer P226 remained in plain view in its holster. She held the pages before her as well, feeling them rustle in the breeze lifting off the prairie. It picked up briefly, hard enough to whisk the hat off a militiamen lying prone over the rim of an arroyo holding a rifle with telescopic sight fixed on her. She caught the heavy whomp-whomp-whomp of a helicopter circling overhead, this network or that sure to be getting shots of the standoff.
That’s when she spotted the man in the light colored suit and graying ginger-shaded hair striding her way from the side of the road where most of the media had gathered, hands tucked into his pants pockets.
“Well, well, well,” grinned Congressman Asa Fraley who represented Texas’ 32nd District, voice droning as if he were still giving an interview, “look who it is. Just what we need right now, some gasoline sprayed on the fire.”
“I’m just here doing my job, Congressman,” Caitlin said, standing stiff before him.
Fraley stopped close enough to Caitlin for her to be able to smell the spearmint lacing his breath. “The problem, Ranger, is I’m here doing my job too. In this case that means putting out a fire, not fanning the flames.”
Caitlin nodded. “I couldn’t help but notice which side you’re standing with, sir.”
“I’m just trying to defuse the situation. That man’s a patriot, Ranger,” Fraley said, looking back toward Christoph Ilg holding court with any media type who’d listen. “I would’ve thought you of all people would see that.”
“Because the Texas Rangers were birthed to lend justice to a frontier not all that much different than this one.”
“Oh, it was plenty different, Congressman,” Caitlin said, blowing out her own breath to chase the spearmint back. He’d stopped close enough to leave them contending for the same space, Fraley treating her more like another reporter with whom he needed to establish an instant familiarity. “Back then, my ancestors had their hands full with Mexican bandits and marauding Indian tribes. They never had to deal with the likes of anti-government militias and politicians looking for any soapbox to shoot off their mouths.” She spotted a man glaring at her, having drawn closer to Ilg’s right flank and packing a cannon-sized pistol. “Do you have a brother, sir?”
“That’s none of your business.”
“Because I just noticed a man who looks an awful lot like you. That twin of yours maybe, the one who can’t keep himself out of trouble? As I recall, even in Texas a felon carrying a gun is a probation violation. Maybe I should run him in.”
Fraley took a step back, aware suddenly the space wasn’t his to command as he was normally accustomed. His gaze grew flat and harsh, his eyes narrowing to mere slits barely revealing his grayish pupils. Caitlin had never seen a man with gray eyes before, nor one with a dye job gone so wrong, Fraley’s strands of coarse hair evenly mixed between shades of orange and corn yellow.
“How many men have you killed exactly, Ranger?”
“One less than maybe I should have, Congressman.”
“Is that a threat?”
“No more than that subpoena you keep promising to slap me with to drag me before that committee of yours in Washington.”
“It’s called the Government Oversight Committee and you’re going to find that we take our work very seriously.”
“So do I, sir,” Caitlin said, peering past him. “Speaking of which, please step aside so I can do my job.”
This is a giveaway hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours for Jon Land. There will be multiple US winners of 1 copy of Strong Light of Day by Jon Land. The giveaway begins on October 12th, 2015 and runs through November 14th, 2015. For US residents only. a Rafflecopter giveaway