Monday, June 27, 2016

Western Mysteries

Suspenseful, mind boggling mysteries are very popular with readers, as are classic western adventures. Put them together and you’ve got a down-to-earth detectives faced with puzzling crimes in scenic outdoor locations.  It just so happens that the library has several good series of western mysteries, shelved in the Adult Mysteries section on the main floor – right across from the New Mysteries on the wooden kiosks.  Try the newest book in each series…..or just read them all.

C. J. Box
The Joe Pickett series began in 2001 with Open Season and continues through sixteen adventures (one per year), with the latest installment titled Off the Grid published earlier in 2016.  If you’re not familiar with Box’s books, Joe Pickett is a conservation officer covering 500 square miles of wilderness for the State of Wyoming.  He’s a family man with a wife and three daughters who are all aware of the danger associated with a job that often takes him to remote locations where he interacts with all kinds of people out of reach of telephone communications.  This particular adventure takes Joe to the Red Desert in southern Wyoming with a group of possible terrorists, some undercover government agents with agendas of their own, and an expert hunter and falconer, Nate Romanowski, who is making a repeat appearance in the series.

Margaret Coel
The Man Who Fell from the Sky by Margaret Coel is the newest installment of the Wind River Mysteries which began in 1995 with the publication of The Eagle Catcher.  Known for her ability to blend history with modern issues and fast-paced action, Coel features two unlikely sleuths, Father John O'Malley, a history scholar and recovering alcoholic assigned to work at the mission on the Arapaho Indian reservation, and Vicky Holden, an attorney who returned to the reservation after ten years in the outside world. Together they tackle a murder that involves Butch Cassidy’s buried loot from the 1890’s, the location of which has been passed down through family lines, along with other secrets that put everyone in danger. If Coel’s western mysteries suit your reading style, watch the library shelves for Winter's Child, slated for release in September 2016.

John Fortunado
Dark Reservations by John Fortunato features Joe Evers, special agent with the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  His battle with alcohol will remind readers of Henning Mankell’s Swedish detective, Kurt Wallander, whose powers of deduction and years of experience on the job are often overshadowed by his drinking habits.  Evers finds himself working on a 20 year-old cold case involving a missing Congressman when an old car full of bullet holes shows up on the Navajo reservation.  He’s assigned to work with Randal Bluehorse, a Navajo Tribal Officer, tying Native American and Federal governments to the mix of mystery.  Add a Congressional candidate related to the victim and the possible theft of Native American artifacts, and you’ve got plenty of intrigue packed into this novel, which won the Tony Hillerman Prize in 2014.

Tony Hillerman / Anne Hillerman
Tony Hillerman’s outstanding western mysteries date back to 1970 beginning with The Blessing Way and ending eighteen books later with The Shape Shifter in 2006.  Then he died and the fate of Lt. Joe Leaphorn was left to the writing skills of his daughter, Anne Hillerman.  Luckily, the Leaphorn and Chee series was continued in 2013 with Spider Woman's Daughter  and Rock with Wings in 2015.  Except for the gap in time, the transition is seamless from one author to the next.  The primary difference in storyline is a shift in focus from Lt. Joe Leaphorn, the original protagonist, to the newly married crime fighting team of Navajo tribal police officers Jim Chee and Bernadette Manuelito.  As Jim and Bernie try to balance married life with their careers in law enforcement, their latest adventure separates them into two investigations that bring contemporary issues to the story; in this case, film makers in Monument Valley, drug runners, and a solar company trying to bend some laws in the New Mexico wilderness.

Craig Johnson
The Highwayman by Craig Johnson is a novella that features Walt Longmire, but is not part of the Longmire series that begins with The Cold Dish in 2004 and continues to the eleventh book, Dry Bones (2015).  New readers will be able to step into western adventure with Longmire and his life-long friend, Henry Standing Bear, who usually adds his Native American skills of observation and contemplation to solve the mystery at hand.  Walt and Henry are called to a Wind River Canyon outpost to investigate intermittent “officer needs assistance” calls in the canyons where radio transmission is spotty at best.  Rosey Wayman, newly assigned to the post, is starting to doubt her sanity because the messages are coming from a patrolman who died   in the 1980’s.  This mystery can’t be solved without looking into the past and confronting the legend of The Highwayman.  Longmire’s office staff and his daughter, with their own side plots, are missing from this more direct storyline, but reappear in An Obvious Fact, the next story in the series, due for publication in September 2016.  The TV series, available in the DVD section, features three full seasons of Robert Taylor as Walt Longmire and Lou Diamond Phillips as Henry Standing Bear..

Lynette Suckow, Reference Desk

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