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Strong Vengeance (Caitlin Strong) by Jon Land
Cover Artist: Victor Habbick Visions and Miguel Navarro / Getty Images
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Forge Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765330994
Date: 17 July 2012 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

In the Texas Gulf, the crew of the oil rig Mariah discover the remains of the slave ship Mother Mary, which was sunk in 1821 by the notorious pirate Jean Lafitte. Two weeks later, Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong boards the seemingly deserted Mariah and finds the entire crew murdered execution style.

Her lover, Cort Wesley Masters, has been recently released from a Mexican prison. Together, Caitlin and Cort discover a connection between the murdered crew of the Mariah and a cell of homegrown terrorists plotting an attack on Texas soil that will kill millions. While researching a slew of brutal murders and disappearances that have occurred since the late 1970's, they also uncover clues to the membership and location of the terrorist cell.

Jon Land's Strong Vengeance has a fantastic, complex plot that gallops swiftly across the great state of Texas. Most of the action, however, is centered around San Antonio (Caitlin's home), Houston, and Galveston Island. Having lived in San Antonio during the 1970's, I longed to return there after reading this novel. I have fond memories of the River Walk, the Alamo, and the Tower of the Americas. When I was only eleven, I bicycled to all the Spanish missions in San Antonio.

Until reading Strong Vengeance, I never realized the important role that the Texas Rangers had in the state's colonization and development. Their historical contributions are provided in short, one-page excerpts prior to the beginning of each of the novel's ten Parts, its Prologue, and its Epilogue. The Texas Rangers were fierce, loyal, tough, and strong. I can understand why Caitlin Strong is proud of her heritage. Her father Jim Strong and grandfather Earl Strong, both deceased, are legends among the Texas Rangers. Caitlin helps close one of their unsolved cases: the brutal slaying of five fraternity pledges on Galveston Island in 1979.

There is plenty of action to keep the reader engaged from the first to the last page. The novel begins with the sinking of the Mother Mary. Caitlin makes her first appearance at a hostage situation at San Antonio's Thomas C. Clark High School. Meanwhile, Cort Masters is literally fighting for his life in a death match at Mexico's Cereso prison; contestants fight for the pleasure of the vicious guards and warden. My favorite scene in the novel, however, is when Caitlin boards the creepy, deathly-quiet oil rig, Mariah, and discovers the corpses. There are many other creepy, gory scenes that are too many to describe here. Also, there are several creepy, brutal villains who keep Caitlin and her friends busy. The creepiest is the pedophile hit man Jalbert Thoms who has AIDS; naturally Caitlin and Cort go ballistic when Jalbert makes suggestive remarks about Cort's oldest son Dylan who resembles a young rock star.

Most all of the villains, I learned, are seeking vengeance--a strong vengeance that has consumed their lives, blinding them to reason and morality. Hence the novel's title. The most startling, eye opening lesson to be learned from this novel is this: These villains were once victims of hate crimes. They watched as their beloved relatives were brutally injured and slain at the hands of those who were prejudice. One villain in particular was a child when he saw his father beaten nearly to death; long ago, the seeds of destruction were planted in his young, highly impressionable mind. I'm not trying to justify these men's behavior, only explain it. We must not harm someone because their skin is of a different color or we do not share their beliefs. Sins never go unpunished. We reap what we sow. Consequently, Caitlin Strong races against time to prevent the seeds of vengeance from coming to their fruition.

Caitlin Strong reminds me very much of Karin Slaughter's heroine, Faith Mitchell. Both women are dedicated, intelligent, and tough as nails--good role models. (If I had a daughter, I would want her to be like these women.) Therefore, because of its remarkable heroine, its evil villains, its non-stop killing, and its noteworthy protestation against hate crimes, I highly recommend reading Jon Land's extremely intriguing Strong Vengeance.

One day Iíll have to read the other novels in this outstanding series: Strong Enough to Die, Strong at the Break and Strong Justice. Furthermore, fans of Caitlin Strong may want to read another excellent novel of Texas noir, Tricia Fields' The Territory. Police Chief Josie Gray lives in Artemis, a small West-Texas border town. She is caught between two warring cartels that are trying to establish a drug route from Mexico's Piedra Labrada to Artemis.

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