Saturday October 19 at 5:00 PM Keith McCafferty returns for the paperback release of A Death in Eden. His Montana mysteries feature Sherriff Martha Ettinger, Sean Stranahan, and Harold Little Feather among a cast of other characters. They are all great to spend time with, but Harold Little Feather is a particularly appealing character and he has the lead in this edge of your seat story. Harold recently left his post as one of Martha’s deputies to take a position as a detective with the Montana Division of Criminal Investigation. He just came off of an undercover investigation involving some nasty men poaching bear to sell their gallbladders. It was not an assignment he enjoyed, the men were dangerous and Harold does not take kindly to hurting animals. So his new assignment is odd but welcome.
Montana’s Smith River is so gorgeous and remote; it is a 7 year wait to receive a permit to float the river. Lately someone has been putting up scarecrows above the river, with signs saying “NOT ON MY WATCH” and “N0 SMITH RIVER MINE”, sentiments Harold might agree with but the powers that be want the perpetrator caught. A documentary filmmaker, Lillian Cartwright, has permission to float the river with Clint McCaine (a wealthy man and manager of the mine project) and Bart Trueblood (president of Save the Smith dedicated to stopping the mine). Lillian figures the fur will fly with the two opponents trapped together on the river, giving her good filming opportunity. She hired Sam Meslik’s outfit to handle the float, Sean Stranahan is helping Sam. As tensions rise and things grow sinister, Sheriff Martha Ettinger will enter the fray. I couldn’t put this book down! Had to know what was happening with Harold Little Feather. There are also surprises about the characters. Series fans will love this entry! If you are reading Keith McCafferty for the first time, this will make you want to read all of his books.
The Royal Wulff Murders starts the series. It could have been an accidental drowning but the man fished out of Montana’s Madison River had a Royal Wulff lure hooked in his mouth. Sheriff Martha Ettinger intends to find out who hooked him; she is not a woman to cross. Sean Stranahan moved recently to Montana where he opened an art studio combined with a private detective agency. Sean’s passions are art and fly fishing, the investigating is to help pay the bills. An attractive Southern singer hires Sean, his investigation and Sheriff Ettingers’ cross paths.
The Gray Ghost Murders has Deputy Harold Little Feather going a round with a Grizzly Bear, not advisable. He was on Sphynx Mountain where Lothar, Katie Sparrow’s Search and Rescue German Shepard, found two buried bodies. Sheriff Martha Ettinger suspects murder; the wilds of Montana adding an extra challenge to collecting evidence (remember the aforementioned Grizzly Bear). Sean Stranahan is hired by the Madison River Liars and Fly Tiers Club when a rare Gray Ghost fly is stolen. The investigations come together as the body count mounts.
Dead Man’s Fancy has Sheriff Martha Ettinger searching for Nanika Martinelli, known as the Fly Fishing Venus, and easily recognizable from her flaming red hair. A rider-less horse returned to the Culpepper Dude Ranch prompting the search. Following the horse’s hoof prints in the snow, Martha discovers one of the search team impaled on the antlers of an elk. Sean helps look for Nanika, leading to more trouble. The missing woman is known for her affinity for wolves, this plays into the story.
Crazy Mountain Kiss begins with the discovery of the body of a teenage girl wedged into the chimney of a cabin in the mountains. Sheriff Martha Ettinger realizes the dead girl, is Cinderella Huntington who has been missing for months. She hails from a family of gifted equestrians. Cindy was a rising rodeo star, a role her mother, Etta, filled in her youth, and her dad is a Hollywood stunt rider and consultant on western films. Cindy and her mother share a deep connection to horses. Etta, wanting questions answered, hires Sean.
In Buffalo Jump Blues Deputy Sheriff Harold Little Feather has a grim task in the aftermath of 4th of July. A herd of buffalo went over a buffalo jump, either panicked by the celebratory fireworks or stampeded in a reenactment of earlier native hunting practices. The animals lay at the base of the cliff moaning in pain, Harold Little Feather’s task is to stop their suffering as humanely and quickly as possible. It is not easy, but it is the kindest thing he can do for the animals. Amid the dying Harold discovers a calf, miraculously uninjured. The law requires the animal’s death; they have strayed off of park land. Harold doesn’t care; he is intent on saving this little animal, one lone survivor out of all the killing. Although there have been no cases of transmission of brucellosis from Bison to cattle in Montana, the law is clear, those buffalo were under a death sentence when they left the park. The instant Francis Lucien Drake of the Montana Department of Livestock gets wind of the buffalo calf, he shows up with his triggerman, Calvin Barr, to kill the little animal. An action Harold will not abide. Sheriff Martha Ettinger begins an investigation on what made the buffalo jump (firework fright or people), then discovers the body of an Indian. Murder seems likely, upping the ante. Meanwhile Sean Stranahan is hired by a mermaid to find her childhood friend, John Running Boy.
Cold Hearted River breaks your heart as a couple encounters one of those sudden snowstorms where the temperature drops so cold it is painful to breathe. Of course things do not go well. Sherriff Martha Ettinger is left with haunted memories and an injured hand from her part in the tragedy. Unable to drive easily, and unwilling to take a few days off at home recuperating, she enlists Sean Stranahan’s help in going back to the scene where they find a fly wallet with the initials EH, coincidentally the same initials shared by one of the greatest American authors of all time. Patrick Willoughby, the president of the Madison River Liars and Fly Tiers Club was approached a few days earlier by a man purporting to sell fishing gear from Earnest Hemingway. With this connection, the story is off and running and it is a grand ride indeed! Patrick hires Sean to investigate, Hemingway’s fishing gear did go missing, perhaps the offer might be genuine. The fishing gear would be valuable, if parts of an unpublished story were included, the value would be beyond measure. More bodies pile up, memorable characters are introduced, and the action goes from Montana to Michigan, Wyoming, and ultimately Cuba. If you enjoyed The Paris Wife, you will find additional stories of Hemingway in this remarkable, literary mystery that I found terrific fun to read.
It is not necessary to be a fisherman to enjoy Keith McCafferty’s novels, they are first and foremost great stories. Montana is like a character in each of the books, his evident love of the wilderness and experience with nature enhance each of his novels.
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