Strong Darkness (Caitlin Strong)
by Jon Land
Cover Artist: Getty Images / Arcangel Images
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Forge Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765335111
Date: 30 September 2014 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /
Once again, the present mirrors the past in Strong Darkness, Jon Land's latest installment in the Caitlin Strong mystery series. In 1883, Caitlin's great-grandfather, Texas Ranger William Ray Strong, and Judge Roy Bean investigate a series of gruesome murders involving Chinese prostitutes. Their heads were being removed and then sewn on backwards. These murders were taking place along the building of the Trans-Pecos rail line. William Ray and the judge must face evil employees of the Southern Pacific Railroad and the vicious Pinkertons. Much violence and bloodshed ensue. Innocent Chinese railroad workers and the missionaries attempting to convert them to Christianity are mercilessly butchered.
In the present, Caitlin meets with much opposition while investigating the dead prostitutes which may be connected to one of the most evil, diabolical villains I have ever encountered in the world of literature: Li Zhen. He reminded me of those villains in the James Bond movies that wanted to destroy the world. Li Zhen seeks vengeance for an injustice that was done to one of his ancestors, Tsuyoshi Zhen, in 1883. The Southern Pacific Railroad cheated him out of an invention, leaving him destitute and forcing him to work alongside the poor Chinese railroad workers. However, Li Zhen is also an amoral pervert who delves in the most repugnant form of internet child pornography; he is one of the lowest of the low.
Caitlin relies upon her bizarre giant of a friend, Colonel Guillermo Paz. He is an assassin who befriended Caitlin. Obsessed with existentialism, he sometimes has psychic visions of her in danger. Paz, however, is not the only character who isn't wrapped too tight. Cort Wesley still talks to the ghost of a man who befriended him in prison, Leroy Epps, a former boxer. One might claim that the ghost is merely a physical representation of Cort's conscious, except strange objects, such as an antique Root Beer bottle, are sometimes found after the ghost has disappeared. There is also the secret government official who goes by numerous aliases such as "Jones" and "Brooks". He always harangues Caitlin, threatening to have her fired.
Like her great-grandfather, Texas Ranger William Ray Strong, Caitlin must suffer a lot of indignities and injustices from all sides of the law. She must face unknown enemies within our own country's Homeland Security. Our government has granted Li Zhen diplomatic immunity. Caitlin figuratively, and literally, finds her hands tied when trying to arrest the evil Li Zhen who appears invincible. William Ray also felt helpless, surrounded by enemies, but he remained strong and never gave up. Neither does Caitlin. Despite the obstacles and the bloodshed (and Strong Darkness is the bloodiest novel I have read in a long time), she endures. She is pure Texas Ranger.
This novel exudes pride in the Lone Star State. Having lived in San Antonio, I can understand why. I have visited the River Walk and the Alamo; in fact, I bicycled to all the Spanish missions in San Antonio when I was in the Webelos. It is a beautiful state.
This novel also underscores the evilness of human trafficking, which is a hot topic. (I just read about it in Douglas Corleone's excellent Payoff.) Fans need to read the Author's Note and they will shudder upon learning that America's dependency upon Chinese technology has become extremely dangerous. When we transmit data over the 4G wireless internet and store information in these various 'clouds', their creators can easily steal it. Strong Darkness has more roller coasters than Six Flags over Texas and is highly recommended to all fans of action-packed thrillers and mysteries.