Fresh Meat: Strong Rain Falling by Jon Land

Strong Rain Falling by Jon Land is the fifth thriller featuring Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong, who confronts her family's past, dating from the Mexican Revolution, when the people and country she loves are threatened (available August 13, 2013).

Caitlin Strong is a fifth-generation Texas Ranger with a bad habit of leaving piles of bodies and bullets in her wake, and now someone has killed five children in the border ghost town of Willow Creek, a town from her family’s Ranger past. Meanwhile, killers are after Cort Wesley’s teenage sons, but no one knows why. Yet.

Miquel Asuna took a step toward him, playful glint gone from his gaze. “You ever think all these problems you got now started when you met her? I mean, goddamn, didn’t you used to be the most feared man in San Antonio, maybe the whole state of Texas, which is sure saying something, and nobody’d even dare look at you crossways. Madre de Dios, now you got death squads hunting your kids.”

Except, it doesn’t really start out with all that. Personally, I’d have moved the prologue to chapter two, maybe. The old-west flashback and modern-day sociopath opening left me a little “meh.” Once I got to Caitlin and Dylan, Cort Wesley’s older son, and their college tour, I tore through the rest of the book, flashbacks and sociopaths and all. It’s not that those opening elements aren’t important or interesting—they are—they just didn’t grab me. Your mileage may vary.

Caitlin has been touted as a strong female character. Her strength outside of gunfights was more apparent in earlier books, and given the race-against-the-clock nature of the plot, there’s little time for reflection or emotion aside from anger and fear. And, hoo-boy does she have a lot of anger, with attitude to spare.

“It’s Jones, Captain, and haven’t you seen what William Faulkner said about the past?”

“Just because it may not be dead doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to be, Jones,” Caitlin said, before Tepper could get his own response out.

Jones stepped into the room and closed the door behind him, looking up at the weak spray of light as if wondering what was wrong with the fixture. The open window seemed to bother him as well, and he took a slight step to the side to take himself from the vantage point it provided from outside. “Don’t take things so personally, Ranger.”

“Don’t expect me to forget what a gutless asshole you are.”

She’s also a Wild West type of gunslinger in modern-day Texas, a problem her supervisor is all too keen to point out on more than one occasion.

Caitlin watched Tepper swallow hard, his face looking like the stomach acid had splashed up into his mouth. “You have dragged the entire nineteenth century into the present with you, Hurricane. I’m starting to think the only solution to me not finishing my career as a crossing guard is finding a time machine to whisk you away to where you belong.”

But it’s not the nineteenth century that holds sway over the events in Willow Creek and, ultimately, the “strong rain” on the horizon. Back in the early twentieth century, Caitlin’s grandfather and great-grandfather found a massacre of their own in the small town of Willow Creek.

William Ray’s hope was to make the town before nightfall, no real desire to face whatever had sprayed blood all over the boy after dark.

“Tell me about Willow Creek, son,” he prodded Earl.

Earl felt the boy’s grasp tighten at mere mention of the town’s name. “Sir?”

“It’s part of your Rangering patrol. That means you gotta know it inside and out.”

“Not much of a town these days,” Earl recalled.


“You smell that, son?” William Ray asked as they approached the outskirts of Willow Creek.

Earl realized the boy was digging into him tighter with his fingers, as if he’d caught the scent, too. “Afraid I don’t, sir, not yet.”

And Caitlin’s not the only one boiling with anger either. Though rich and powerful, Ana Guajardo prefers to speak in business parables and quotes from the likes of Forbes magazine:

[She] led the two men, her most trusted captains, around the lee of her sprawling home toward the stables that were her pride and joy. “I’m disappointed in your failure, gravely disappointed, but I’m not angry. Bob Parsons, the great CEO who founded GoDaddy, says that when you get knocked down, the sooner you get up and get back to business, the sooner your failure can be rectified. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

The question isn’t whether Ana is out for revenge, but rather for what and just how many she plans to take down before she’s finished.

“I’d like to help you, Ranger, I really would.” Guajardo took another step closer, stopping when she banged up against something that felt like a force field enclosing Caitlin. “That’s why you need to know you can’t stop the storm that’s coming. The best you can hope for is to find cover before it’s too late.”


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Neliza Drew is a tofu-eating teacher and erratic reader with a soft spot for crime fiction. She lives in the heat and humidity of southern Florida with three cats and her adorable hubby. She listens to way too much music, writes often, and spends too much time on Twitter (@nelizadrew).

Read all posts by Neliza Drew on Criminal Element.


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