Book of the Day
STRONG TO THE BONE by Samantha Traci
Caitlin Strong, much to her superiors’ chagrin, is like a boulder rolling downhill when she latches on to the scent of a new case. In Strong to the Bone, the indefatigable Texas Ranger is at it again; this time in a whirlwind set of events that stretch not only across the state of Texas, but from 1944 to present day in a maelstrom that includes Nazis, J. Edgar Hoover, weapons of mass destruction, and more.
The story begins in 1944, just post-World War II. We meet Texas Ranger Earl Strong, Caitlin’s grandfather, and see the beginning of his hunt for an escaped Nazi POW from a prison camp in Hearne, Texas. The story leapfrogs from there back and forth between 1944 and present day, between Earl Strong’s timeline and his granddaughter’s. The present-day timeline also includes storylines involving Caitlin’s boyfriend and his son’s run-in with modern-day white supremacists, a less-than-ethical pharmaceutical executive, and Caitlin’s personal fight with some long-repressed demons.
If it sounds like a plot that covers a lot of ground, it most definitely is; yet Land manages to weave his seemingly incongruous storylines together into a narrative that flows seamlessly and comes out at a frenetic pace. It’s worth noting that the quick pace often leaves little time for exposition or character backstory, but as this is the ninth in the Caitlin Strong series, one can reasonably assume the reader would get more details by reading this novel’s predecessors. Taken as a standalone book the plot is still easy to follow and ends with satisfying finality. The historical notes in the story add another layer of interest and are sure to send the reader off on more than one Google adventure to ferret out the truth at the heart of the fiction.
Land excels at writing characters with personalities that jump off the page. Perhaps that’s fitting for a novel set in Texas and featuring the larger-than-life Texas Rangers; all the characters – good, evil, and morally ambiguous – have distinct, memorable personalities that help the reader keep it all straight when people, places, and bullets are all flying past. At the outset of the novel, in a scene that involves Caitlin commandeering a firetruck and using its hose to blast rioters out of her way, the reader is introduced to Caitlin’s “ask forgiveness later,” reactionary personality. It’s a theme that follows throughout the story and provides a hint of the action to come. The writing is not quite hard-boiled, a thriller that provides enough action to satisfy. Fans of David Baldacci or Lee Child will be at home with Land’s style.
Caitlin Strong stands out, not as a stereotypical “strong” female character, but because she’s simply a strong character, period. Her gender is unremarkable, both to the plot itself and to the other characters she meets. She’s simply a tough, no-nonsense Texas Ranger who kicks some ass when necessary. Even though this novel spends half its time in the past, Strong to the Bone tackles topics and issues extremely relevant to present day while stacking some gritty action on top of a surprise twist of an ending.