Categories: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
Reviewed by Russell Ilg
Good thing such things are nothing new for Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong. And with that line from the prologue, her latest adventure Strong from the Heart is off and running at a breakneck clip that doesn’t let up until the final page is turned. This is the best thriller of the year, in large part for how it confronts Caitlin and company with challenges that are exceedingly rare for a genre novel. Purchase Here.
I say that because not only does Strong from the Heart place the opioid crisis front and center, but the book does so with the series’ tried and true regulars front and center. Start with Caitlin’s surrogate son, now high school senior Luke Torres, being rushed to the hospital after snorting Oxycontin. Add to that Caitlin’s own dependence on Vicodin to get her through the pain from recent gunfight-related trauma and you’ve got the recipe for a thriller rife with characters at war with themselves as much as the bad guys who’ve hatched a typically nightmarish plot, typical for Caitlin Strong anyway.
These particular Washington-based villains have formed a drug cartel of mammoth proportions under the auspices of the government itself. Their dirty dealings are brought to light when an entire town on the Texas-Mexico border is wiped out in minutes. But a Caitlin Strong thriller is far more comfortable in the darkness and Strong from the Heart is no exception there, as we’re treated to a seemingly endless succession of morally challenged types, most notably a monstrous Native American named Yarek Bone who sports a condition that keeps him from feeling any pain.
Good thing Caitlin’s trusted protector and sidekick Guillermo Paz is on the job, fired from his job as an elementary school gym teacher (for teaching second graders live fire exercises) just in time to join Caitlin’s oft-bad boy boyfriend Cort Wesley Masters by her side. Masters, for his part, is none too happy about his son Luke’s overdose and seeks to lay waste to the whole of Texas’s drug dealing underbelly.
Not surprisingly, that track runs straight into one following the truth behind what killed an entire town of three hundred and holds the potential to kill hundreds of millions more. Being that this is a Caitlin Strong novel, that’s hardly a surprise either. Nor is the aplomb with which author Jon Land unleashes his crack group of gunfighters, that now includes Caitlin’s murderously deadly half-sister Nola Delgado, to shoot first and ask questions later.
The addition of Nola provides this series a fresh shot in the arm at a point when many have grown stale. No sign of that here. The eleventh Caitlin Strong novel is as bracing and blistering as the first. Strong from the Heart is a fast and furious tale of the highest order, exploding off the line like a Ferrari even before the afterburner kicks in to sweep us off our feet. So strap yourselves in and come along for the ride.