My rating: 5 of 5 stars
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Keith McCafferty’s ‘Crazy Mountain Kiss‘ (Viking 2015) is as much about the glorious wild Montana setting as it is about the dead girl found stuffed in a rustic cabin chimney. At the core of the murder mystery are the people who call these remote mountains and streams home and accept a life dependent on the whims of nature. Sean Stranahan, star of McCafferty’s four-book series, is an eclectic small-town detective that doesn’t look for clients and takes only those with interesting cases. This one–a wealthy sixteen-year-old cowgirl who disappeared without a trace to be found four months later in the tattered remains of the clothes she went missing in–leads down paths he never expected to results he didn’t want to find. He spends half the book collecting seemingly disconnected clues that are then tied together into a satisfying conclusion, made more difficult because the girl’s family has secrets they don’t give up willingly. Along the way are trucks, dogs, broken hearts, and unrequited loves that add spice to the plot.
Sean Stranahan is unlike any character I’ve met. I might compare him to Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, but only because of Stranahan’s nomadic free spirit and moral tenacity for following clues. Stranahan lives in a teepee, is an artist, and loves fly fishing. He accepts people at face value, is non-judgmental, but can read between the lines of their hidden, unspoken thoughts. Everything he does is colored by the Montana landscape, its geography, and the people who call this tough habitat home.
This is the type of story I love–honest people, solid morals, flawed but forgiving, made stronger by failure, toughened by a life spent struggling to survive off land that is ruled by Nature. I fell in love with this sub-genre with Tony Hillerman’s eighteen-volume Navajo series, CJ Box’s twenty-volume Joe Pickett series set in Wyoming, and Peter Bowen’s Gabriel DuPre. McCafferty is an excellent addition to my reading list.
More setting-based murder-mysteries:
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her book at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.